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BR 121 . 

S3213 1904 


, Auguste, 



Religions of authority a 

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Laie Dean of the Protestant Faculty of Theology in the 
University of Paris 





Copyright, 1904, ^ 

Published, February, 1904, N 

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It is with a sense of obeying the will of him who is no more that we 
publish this work. The task is at once very grateful, because it seems 
to us like giving a sort of survivorship to his thought, and very sorrow- 
ful, from the bitterness of our consciousness that he is no longer here 
to perfect his own work, and to present it himself to the public in the 
concise and literary form which he would have given to it. 

On December 2, 1900, my husband joyfully called me to him, saying, 
" I have put the last period to my book." And while I was congratu- 
lating him, he added: " Now I shall let it rest during our journey to 
Egypt and Palestine. It will take me three months to revise it on our 
return, but I shall not modify its form, for I have said that which 
I desire to say. If accident befalls me during the journey remember 
this: my book must come out whatever happens. There it lies," he 
continued, turning to his desk ; " you will give it to Menegoz and Rob- 
erty, who will both willingly revise it ; but it must appear! " He 
repeated the words with emphasis, separating each syllable to show that 
this was his well-considered determination. 

Although he had long been out of health, he had no idea that his 
disease would progress so rapidly, and when I spoke to him of rest he 
would say : " I have work planned out for two hundred years," or 
else, " I hope to die in my professorial chair." This hope was almost 
fulfilled, for on the 5th of February my husband gave a lecture, and 
returned home, literally staggering, to take to his bed. 

It was an immense disappointment to him to give up the journey 
to Palestine, for which, on the very evening before, he had been making 
preparations. He had long dreamed of the journey as the crown of 
all his toil. 


vi NOTE 

On December 30, 1900, we were alone together in the country. I 
took an atlas, and while he, shivering over the fire, with closed eyes, 
described the hoped-for journey, I, wondering, followed on the map 
the outlines of the Lake of Tiberias, the picturesque features of the 
country, which he described as if he had seen them. He was listening 
to the words of Christ, looking upon the places where they had been 
spoken, describing to me the prospect which Jesus had before his eyes 
as he spoke. It was a never-to-be-forgotten evening. 

During the twenty-five years that I had the privilege of sharing his 
life I never ceased to wonder at the prodigious powers which enabled 
him to accomplish a truly superhuman task. He worked incessantly and 
everywhere, undisturbed by noises, conversations, the children's plays, 
music, bursts of laughter : nothing interrupted or confused his thought. 
The activity of his brain was so intense that it drew heavily upon his 
physical strength. Worn out by his labours, he gently breathed away 
his life on April 12, while praying, " Our Father, who art in heaven." 

It is impossible to give adequate recognition to the zeal of those 
friends who have kindly revised this volume, with all its references: 
M. Menegoz, the chosen partner of his theological thought, his brother- 
in-arms ; MM. J. Emile Roberty, Jean Reville, Adolphe Lods, who had 
been more or less his pupils, and who, having become his colleagues, were 
bound to him with unalterable affection. With pious respect they have 
hardly touched the form of this work, preferring to leave some repeti- 
tions rather than risk weakening the thought, and not daring to under- 
take the work of condensation which its author would have performed. 
When he had written out all his thought he was never weary of cutting 
down, pruning, seeking for greater clearness and conciseness. 

Thanks, therefore, to all you, his true and faithful friends. Though 
the book lacks its last fine touch, at least those who know how such labour 
is done will see with what a sure hand the master craftsman blocked 
out his work, how firm was his design and how definite his thought, from 
the first sketch. Frankline Sabatier. 


This volume forms a sequel to the work which the author published in 
1897, under the title, " Outlines of a Philosophy of Religion based upon 
Psychology and History." 

Two systems of theology still confront one another: the theology 
of authority and the theology of experience. They are characterised 
by methods radically opposed in the scientific development of religious 
ideas and Christian dogmas. To the solution of the question of method 
the present work is consecrated. At the present hour one method is 
dying and destined soon to disappear ; the other is taking on ever more 
vigorous development, and is destined to triumph. 

The problem here discussed belongs not simply to the order of philos- 
ophy. It reacts strongly upon the social order. In fact, the relations 
between civil and religious society, between Church and State, necessarily 
differ in character according as religion is conceived of as an inner 
inspiration upspringing in human consciences that have been tilled and 
sown by the divine Spirit, or as a supernatural institution charged by a 
higher and external authority with the education, training, and gov- 
ernment of human spirits. In the first case religion becomes inherent 
in civil society itself, as it is in the human conscience; it acts beneath 
the surface, like the hidden sap that awakens the winter-bound tree to 
the new life of spring, yet neither suppresses nor does violence to its 
legitimate development. In the second, on the contrary, religion claims 
external authority as a divine law to which all human laws must yield, 
as an extra-human truth which the intelligence must receive with docility, 
as a tutelage, in fact, to which man must submit. Hence inevitably arise 
those irremediable conflicts, less violent among Protestant nations, 


because the authority of Protestant dogma is always relative, more pro- 
found and acute among Catholic peoples, by reason of their moral cus- 
toms, and their concordats, which latter, it is true, may moderate the 
violence of these conflicts, but leave untouched the fatal root of all the 

In France, especially, the religious question underlies all political 
agitation. The strange alternation of movements of revolt and of 
reaction, between which the country oscillates, is both consequence and 
symptom of a fundamental religious problem existing in its political 
life, ever ill stated and ever wrongly solved. 

Nevertheless, it is not in the least degree from a political point of 
view that the question is treated in these pages. Such problems demand 
to be persistently studied and meditated by themselves and for them- 
selves alone, without prepossession either of dislike or favour, in the sole 
interest of truth. This book is in no sense a work of polemics. Whether 
discussing the Catholic or the Protestant dogma of authority, our inten- 
tion has not been to refute either, but before all things to give a historic 
explanation of their formation and their destiny. Every system has its 
immanent logic which impels it toward its point of perfection, and thus 
revealing its internal inconsistencies or insufficiencies, impels it no less 
irresistibly to dissolution and ruin. The history of a dogma is its 
inevitable criticism. Revealing the laborious method of its formation, 
it explains its origin ; pointing out the elements which have entered into 
its composition, it defines its nature; and finally, making manifest the 
changes which, from epoch to epoch, have taken place in general ideas, 
the new configuration of the historic soil upon which these construc- 
tions of the past repose, it lays bare their foundations, and by that very 
act reveals their transient and contingent character. In this sense 
Schiller's saying is true : Die Weltgeschichte ist das Weltgericht. 

In an argument against the systems and method of authority we 
have not wished to impose upon the reader the necessity of believing 
us upon our own word. We have supported each important affirmation 


by authentic citations. This part of our work is that which has cost us 
the most labour. 

This volume is especially offered to students, to those who read not 
for mere amusement, but for instruction's sake, and who seek in these 
matters to reach a reasonable, sound, and accurate conviction. Such 
will here find bibliographical directions which may aid them in their 
own researches. The list of citations is far from complete; it was 
necessary to be content with those that are essential.^ 

More than ever we are convinced that psychology and history are 
the two nursing mothers of religious philosophy. Our former volume 
was simply a work of psychology and history, and nothing else will be 
found here. 

Paris, Attgmt 14, 1899. 

* Appendix I. 



Preface by Madame Sabatier ^i 



I, The Conflict of Methods xT 

II. Authority and Autonomy xviii 

III. Of Authority in Matters of Religion xxviii 



I. The Formula of the Dogma S 

II. The Meaning of the Dogma 8 

III. The Root of the Dogma and Its Constituent Elements .... 13 



I. The Catholic Notion of the Church 16 

II. The Messianic Kingdom and the Church 21 

III. Tlie Greco-Roman Basis of the Catholic Church 27 

IV. The Church and Heresies . . 32 



I. Historic and Supernatural View 39 

II. The Authority of Tradition in Judaism . . . . . . .42 

III. The Earliest Christian Tradition 44 

IV. The Baptismal Formula and the Apostolic Symbol 51 

V. The Genesis of the Catholic Theory of Tradition 55 

VI. Development of the Catholic Theory • .61 





I. The Episcopate and Tradition 68 

II. History of the F'irst Christian Community of Corinth .... 70 

III. Progressive Development of the Episcopate 75 

IV. The Priesthood 83 

V. Apostolic Succession 90 

VI. Tlie Theory of Cyprian— Cathedra Petri 98 



I. The Formative Law of the Catholic Hierarchy 101 

II. The Share of Rome in the Origin of the Papacy 105 

III. The Legend of St. Peter's Chair 113 

IV. First Age of the Papacy — Grandeur and Decadence 120 

V. The Infallible Pope 129 

VI. The Future of the Papacy 136 




I. The Reformation and Humanism 145 

II. Originality of the Reformation Principle 150 

III. The Bible and the Reformers 155 

IV. The Inward Witness of the Holy Spirit; or, The Subjective Basis of 

Protestantism 160 



I. Origin of the Idea of Inspiration 165 

II. Belief in Inspiration in the Christian Church ...... 167 

III. The Principle of the Dogma 174. 

IV. The Construction of the Dogma 175 

V. Comparison of the Protestant and Catholic Dogmas of Authority . . 188 




I. The Basis of the Dogma Displaced 188 

II. The Progress of Biblical Criticism 191 

III. Concessions and Compromises — The Triumphs of Rationalism . . . 197 

IV. Latent Germs and New Methods 202 



I. Revival and Reaction 912 

II. The Final Crisis 218 

III. The Last Bulwark of the System of Authority 229 



I. The Two Elements of the Answer 235 

II. The Historic Notion of the Bible 235 

III. The Religious Notion of the Bible 240 

IV. The Attempt at Synthesis 244 

V. Conclusion 250 





Preliminary Dialogue 255 

I. Authority and Religion 255 

II. Historic Testimony and Criticism 263 

III. Why has the Christian Religion Hitherto Taken on Authoritative Forms? 278 



I, The Teaching of Jesus, Its Form 283 

II. Jesus and the Old Testament 288 

III. The Person of Jesus Christ, Its Authority 292 

IV. The Nature of the Gospel 295 




I. The Fulfilment of the Messianic Promise 301 

II. The Paulinian Notion of Inspiration 305 

III. The Johannean Doctrine of Inspiration 309 

IV. The Idea of the Universal Priesthood 312 

V. The Tradition of the Religion of the Spirit 313 



I. The Antinomy Resolved 319 

II. The Gospel of Salvation 323 

III. The Gospel of Salvation and the Person of Christ 329 

IV. Faith, Belief, and Theology 335 



I. The Spirit of Piety and the Scientific Spirit 342 

II. Conditions on which Theology May Become Scientific .... 345 

III. The Degree of Objectivity in Religious and Christian Experience . . 349 

IV. Religion and Theology 351 

V. The Matter, Function, and Method of Theology 359 



I. Unity; Its Organising Principle 362 

II. Analysis of the Christian Consciousness 366 

III. The Three Degrees of Religious Evolution 369 

IV. Construction of the System 375 



The Conflict of Methods 

To the thinking man a discord between methods is a graver matter than 
an opposition between doctrines. The antagonism which has arisen 
between traditional theology and the kindred group of all other modern 
disciplines is of this kind. 

In the former the method of authority still reigns.* The latter 
depend only upon experience. It follows that between the two there 
can be no bond nor any common standard. 

It is the property of the method of authority to base all judgment 
of doctrine upon the exterior marks of its origin and the trustworthiness 
of those who promulgated it. In religion this method appeals to 
miracles, which accredit God's messengers to men, and stamp their words 
or writings with the divine imprint. 

On the other hand, the modern experimental method puts us in imme- 
diate contact with reality, and teaches us to judge of a doctrine only 
according to its intrinsic value, directly manifested to the mind in the 
degree of its evidence. The two methods are so radically opposed that 
to accept the latter is at once to mark the former as insufficient and 

It sometimes happens that the advocates of the former, to make 
it the more acceptable, reduce it to the necessary and legitimate use of 
testimony admitted in matters of history. It is easy to show the con- 
fusion which must follow. Historical testimony, derived from men who 

1 Appendix II. 


arc recognised as fallible and limited, is always received subject to cau- 
tion, and the truth which the historian draws therefrom is simply the 
result of the comparisons which he institutes between various testimonies, 
and the verification to which he submits them. Thus the foundation 
of historic certainty is still evidence verified by rational criticism. Quite 
otherwise is the method of authority. The testimony upon which the 
argument is based is the testimony of God. The point of departure 
is the axiom that it is reasonable and just that human reason should 
subordinate itself to the divine reason, should indeed be silent and humble 
before it. All reasoning of this kind avowedly or tacitly implies on 
the part of the thinking subject a declaration of incompetence, and as 
a consequence a conscious or unconscious act of abdication. 

In the Middle Ages the method of authority, lording it over the 
human mind, dominated in all sciences. A proposition of Aristotle, an 
utterance of Scripture, a dictum of the Fathers, a decision of a council, 
settled officially, and for most men quite as fitly, a problem of physics, 
astronomy, or history as a problem of morals or philosophy. 

One stands astounded on ascertaining how great was the authority 
of the ancients in the schools up to the end of the seventeenth century. 
Yet this infantile method was vanquished on the day when Galileo and 
Bacon opposed to it in the realm of physics the method of observation 
and experiment, and when Descartes, in philosophy, subjecting all tradi- 
tional ideas to a provisional doubt, resolved to accept as true only those 
which appeared to him to be evidently such. It was an intellectual 
revolution of incalculable importance, which put an end to the long 
minority of the human mind by asserting its autonomy. 

To say that the mind is autonomous is not to hold that it is not sub- 
ject to law; it is to say that it finds the supreme norm of its ideas and 
^ acts not outside of itself, but within itself, in its very constitution. It 
is to say that the consent of the mind to itself is the prime condition 
and foundation of all certitude. This principle explains the character, 
the independence, and the marvellous expansion of modern culture during 


the past three hundred years. If theology persists In subjecting itself 
to an ancient method from which all other disciplines have freed them- 
selves, it will not only find itself in sterile isolation, but it will expose 
itself to the irrefutable denials and unchallengeable judgments of a 
reason always more and more independent and certain of itself. 

Without doubt, if religion could remain in the realm of pure senti- 
ment, it would be beyond the jurisdiction of science; but religion ex- 
presses and realises itself in doctrines and Institutions which cannot be 
exempted from criticism. These doctrines, which bear upon their face 
the indelible date of their birth, implicate as to the constitution of the 
universe, the history of the early ages of humanity, the origin and 
nature of the writings in the canonical Scriptures, certain notions bor- 
rowed from the philosophy and general science of a bygone period of 
human history. To force them upon the philosophy and science of 
to-day and to-morrow is not merely to commit an anachronism; it is 
to enter upon a desperate conflict in which the authority of the past 
is defeated in advance. 

This is why traditional theology appears to be always in distress; 
one by one she abandons her ancient positions, having been unable to 
find security or a basis of defence in any of them. Let astronomy tell 
the story of the heavens, or geology that of the earth ; let Egypt, India, 
or Assyria reveal its past; let historical criticism study the texts and 
monuments of antiquity; let Darwin and his successors relate the evolu- 
tion of creatures and the history of life upon our globe, and some sec- 
tion of the sacred walls is inevitably undermined, and the entire edifice 
of ancient beliefs seems shaken to its foundations. 

It may perhaps be said : Granted that with the method of authority 
theology cannot maintain its dignity as a true science ; is it yet certain 
that it can survive without this method.? 

Thus, in the eyes of the majority, the problem of authority becomes 
a question of life or death for theology, and even for religion. To fore- 
stall a hasty conclusion, let us first of all point out to troubled minds 


that a change of method does not necessarily entail the destruction of 
a science. The latter can disappear only if the object of its study 
vanishes. Now the religious phenomenon is the permanent object of 
theology. So long as the religious phenomenon of Christianity is 
repeated, so long it will continue to be necessary to study it, to deter- 
mine its conditions, its nature, cause, and significance. The experi- 
mental method destroyed the astrology and physics of ancient days, 
but it created a new physics and a new astronomy. Why should not 
the same method, adopted by theology, have the same fecundating 
and rejuvenating effect? And if this transformation is not logically 
impossible, why should it not be justified in the eyes of the Christian 
conscience as well as in those of history and philosophy.'' To this ques- 
tion the studies collected in this volume are meant to reply; and for 
this radical revolution it is their purpose to prepare. 


Authority and Autonomy 

The conflict of methods ends in the antinomy between the authority of 
tradition and the autonomy of the mind. These are two historic and 
social puissances, which, though often opposed one to another, are none 
the less allied and correlative. In the moral progress of humanity, and 
in the acquisition of learning, it may be said that they play equal and 
equally necessary parts. It is important, then, before going farther, 
to take account of their relations. 

These relations at once lead back to those of the individual with 
his species. Authority is the right of the species over the individual, 
autonomy is the right of the individual with regard to the species. 

In metaphysics there is no problem more important than that of 
the relation of the particular to the general, of the individual being 
to the universal being. The question, at bottom, is to know whether 
the spirit shall be subordinated to the creature or the creature to the 


spirit ; whether in the phenomenon of consciousness, which is necessarily 
individual, we are to see an accident without meaning or the manifesta- 
tion of the true being. In the former case all individuality, mere 
ephemeral efflorescence, is engulfed in a materiaUstic pantheism; it has 
just the degree of reality, and the destiny, of the wave that ceaselessly 
swells and falls back upon the face of the ray less ocean. In the other 
case, individualisatioTii that is, the persistent production of more dis- 
tinctly marked individualities, ever more stable and more clearly con- 
scient, becomes the very law of universal evolution. Consciousness ap- 
pears as the final cause, and hence as the profound reason of things, and 
where it takes on a moral character it is crowned in the eyes of the 
whole universe with an inviolable and sacred majesty. 

Yet this is only half the truth. While tending to individuality the f 
world tends neither to anarchy nor to disorder. Individuality does not 
exhaust the phenomenon of consciousness. In every consciousness there 
is a new principle of unification, the germ of an order grander and 
more beautiful than the material order which is maintained by physical 
laws. Side by side with individual energies, which doubtless cause divi- 
sion and separation, is there not in the intelligence itself an element of 
generalising reason, and in the heart a principle of sympathy, a law 
of fraternal love, bringing individual wills into concord and unity? 
Solidarity, which in nature is a ruthless fact, becomes in the realm of 
the spirit a moral ideal, a holy obligation. Should it not be the task 
of humanity as it emerges from nature, and rises into the life of the 
spirit, to realise and to make apparent above the physical universe that 
moral universe which reproduces all its riches, and all its harmony in a 
higher plane, and with an ineffable glory? 

For it is a fact that the moral consciousness does not appear at the 
beginning of evolution, nor does it at any moment burst suddenly into 
being all luminous and perfect. It emerges slowly and laboriously from 
the night of nature. It cannot estabKsh itself without subordinating 
physical laws to its own laws, hence contradictions and repeated con- 


flicts. Thus there is always a double relation between nature and the 
spirit; nature remains for the moral consciousness a necessary support 
which it has no right to despise, and at the same time an obstacle which 
it ought to overcome, and a limit which it must overpass. In a positive 
sense, nature prepares for the advent of the spirit ; this is its reason for 
being. In a negative sense, the spirit can triumph only in raising itself 
above nature. Let us here descend from metaphysics to history. In 
the light of these principles the relations between the species and the 
individual will be easily defined. 

Every individual life is from the beginning determined by the col- 
lective life from which it emanates. Man is not born adult or inde- 
pendent. Little by little he differentiates himself from the species, as 
the child emerges from the matrix in which it was formed. If none 
should live for himself, it is because none exists by himself. 

I belong to my race, to my family, by my organism. The fact of 
my birth has determined in advance the conditions of my life and the 
outlines of my destiny ; it has made me a white man and not a negro, a 
European, a Frenchman of the nineteenth century, instead of a savage 
and a barbarian. Upon my nurture depend not only my health and my 
race instincts, but also my intellectual faculties and my moral inclina- 
tions ; from society, in the bosom of which I grow up, I receive my 
education and all my ancestral heritage. In fact, my being is like a 
body immersed in an encompassing and penetrating fluid. 

Heredity, which imposes upon me the irresistible bias of ancestral 
life; political order, which shuts me up in its decrees; custom, which in 
time becomes second nature; historic tradition and testimony of my 
fellows, which extend my life in time and space and enlarge my per- 
\ sonal experience to embrace the total experience of humanity — who shall 
show the limits of the empire which species exercises over the formation 
of the individual, and over the course of his destinies? 

All these influences are concentrated and made active by relations 
which they are continually creating and developing. Authority of the 


family, authority of the school, authority of the tribe, of the city and 
the Church; these are conservative and educating potencies, without 
which the progress of civilisation and moral culture were not even con- 

Authority, then, has its roots in the organic conditions of the life 
of the species, and its end in the formation of the individual. This 
essentially pedagogical mission at once justifies and limits it. Like 
every good teacher, authority should labour to render itself useless. 

What does the man become under this tutelage? From his parents 
and masters the child receives his language, his ideas, his manner of 
life, his very ways of thinking and feeling. At the outset his trust is 
entire, his faculty of testing and of criticism almost null. But soon, 
by the very process of education, his reason awakes and grows stronger. 
From thenceforth he carries within himself an inward judge who sum- 
mons to his tribunal, and judges by his own law, the things which sur- 
round him, and those which are taught him. He will know for himself 
the world in the midst of which he lives ; he tests by his own experience 
the statements of his teachers. The latter may no longer rely upon the 
prestige of their authority; they are obliged to give him proofs and 
reasons; they must persuade him if they would gain him, and if in his 
turn he expresses an opinion, it is no longer upon the faith of others, 
but as the result of an inward ordeal to which he has submitted it. 
Thus the method of direct intuition and experiment succeed the method ' 
of authority, not by the way of arbitrary evolution, but progressively, 
and as the necessary effect of the development of the conscience and the 
reason. And what is the education of mankind if not the passage from 
faith in authority to personal conviction, and to the sustained practice 
of the intellectual duty to consent to no idea except by virtue of its 
recognised truth, to accept no fact until Its reality has been, in one way 
or another, established. 

A like evolution toward autonomy has gone forward in the history 
of humanity. Only it has been slower and more stormy. Emerging 



from the slate of nature, humanity tends to the state of reason, but it 
has not yet arrived there. The heavy chains of primitive animality 
still weigh it down, and it is only by throwing off those that are out- 
ward, transforming and spiritualising those that are within, that it can 
rise to liberty and light, and establish itself at last in the moral security 
of the autonomous conscience. Authority which is purely exterior is 
neither reasonable nor disinterested. It ought to be a guide, but it 
grows blind ; tutelage becomes tyranny. The past is continually strug- 
gling for self-perpetuation against the future which is sure to dawn. 
Hence those conflicts, crises, revolutions, martyrdoms, which make the 
path of the human race a road to Calvary. The son of man is perpetu- 
ally climbing it, bearing his cross. 

And yet the goal is there, and this goal is the enfranchisement of 
the spirit. History is a moral pedagogy, whose vitality lies in this per- 
petual struggle between the autonomy of the conscience and social 
authority. Of this struggle are bom all the problems which civilised 
peoples to-day have to face. 

In the political order it is the conflict between the governing class 
and the governed. The authority of the former has long been main- 
tained by virtue of the might of victorious strength, or the sovereignty 
of divine authority. The awakened reason asks authority for its 
credentials, and the latter may present only such as are reasonable. In 
one way or another it must show that it acts only for the greatest good 
of the governed, and exists only by virtue of their consent. To recon- 
cile the autonomy of the citizen with the necessities of the social order: 
this is the political problem. 

The same conflict exists in the economic order between capital, which, 
being accumulated wealth, is also the authority of the past, and labour, 
which represents the present eff'ort of living energy. Labour will no 
longer be the slave of capital; it also aspires to autonomy. To con- 
ciliate the autonomy of labour with the necessities of the industrial order : 
this is the economic problem. 


In the bosom of the family the same cause produces the same results. 
What is it that has so notably weakened the ancient authority of the 
father over his children and domestics, and of the husband over his 
wife? Whence comes the struggle now going on in all civilised nations 
between woman and man? It is the same principle of autonomy, which, 
gathering strength from all that develops the forces of the mind, so 
disquietingly shocks the deepest foundations of the old world. To 
reconcile the rights of the moral personality of woman and child with 
the existence and the unity necessary to a family, this above all others, 
is the social problem. 

In the order of religious and philosophic thought, the antagonism 
is not less acute, nor the crisis less threatening. The dualistic concep- 
tion of the natural and the supernatural, the antithesis of a world ex- 
terior to God and a God exterior to the world, acting and reacting upon 
one another from without, the government of the world by those 
catastrophes which we call miracles, the supernatural authority which 
the churches draw from this method to substantiate their claim to im- 
pose their irrational dogmas upon the faith of the simple, and govern 
minds as the kings of the earth used to govern bodies, all this old system 
has succumbed under the irresistible activity of the emancipated philo- 
sophic reason. Here, again, autonomy in revolt first of all showed 
the way to irreligion and atheism, just as, in politics, it engenders upris- 
ings and causes strikes in the industrial order, and the free union in the 
family order. Violent explosions always make ruins, but ruins are not 
solutions. To reconcile the autonomy of thought with the indefeasible 
laws of the moral consciousness, scientific freedom with faith in the God 
who is spirit: this is the religious and moral problem — more profound 
and urgent than all the others. 

The relations between authority and autonomy are, then, neither 
simple nor easy, because autonomy and authority are not fixed quan- 
tities, but states essentially unstable, and always yet to be. It must be 
clearly understood that the passage from one system to another has as 


its ineluctable condition, so far as man is concerned, the passing of the 
animal life into the life of the spirit. The sovereignty of external 
authority is weakened only when that of reason and the conscience 
begin and increase. As the reptile may not hope to soar in upper air 
before growing wings and becoming a bird, so the man who continues 
to live a purely animal life may not aspire to a true autonomy. Violent 
agitations may achieve a change of master, but they cannot bring 
the man out of slavery. Here the nature of the being deter- 
mines the conditions of his life. The animal can but serve or dis- 

This is the vicious circle in which those revolutionaries are turn- 
ing who dream that by violence they can put an end to a system of 
authority. If they join forces to oppose a greater material strength 
to that which the hated authority commands, they may, indeed, triumph 
over it, but the victorious strength, being merely brute strength, must 
necessarily create a new rule of authority, which will be as much more 
burdensome as the strength which founded it was more irresistible. 
Thus, in the French Revolution, we saw the despotism of absolute mon- 
archy give place to the tyranny of the Convention, and this, after a 
few years of anarchy, disappear before the military tyrannj' of 
Napoleon. Material forces were opposed to and beaten by forces 
greater, but of the same nature. Reason is to liberty, and to the har- 
mony of spirits, that which the law of gravitation is to the movements 
of matter. Reason can assert no influence over the movements of 
bodies, weight can do nothing with the organisation of spirits. The 
sole way of escape from the action of brute force is the consciousness 
of yielding full obedience to the inward law of reason. 

Authority is a necessary function of the species, and for very self- 
preservation it watches over that offspring in whom its life is prolonged. 
To undertake to suppress it is to misapprehend the physiological and 
historic conditions of life, whether individual or collective. Itself both 
pedagogic method and social bond, it may be transformed, it cannot 


disappear. Pure anarchists are unconscious dreamers. The species and 
the individual, tradition which is the experience of the past, and the 
experience of to-day which will be the tradition of to-morrow, are data 
equally positive and inviolable. Their reciprocal play, the actions and 
reactions which flow from them, are the very warp of history. None 
may with impunity isolate himself from his race and his social 
cradle. None may dare, without forfeit, to renounce the benefits or the 
burdens of the solidarity which unites him with his brothers, his fore- 
fathers, and his children. We should fall to the level of the brute if 
each one had to begin for himself the work of the ages. Individuality 
itself would thus find its ruin, for individuality is the child and heir 
of the labours of the entire human race, which alone, by preparing its 
moral and material conditions, have made possible its appearance. Why, 
then, is the civilised man less a slave to the fetters of nature than the 
savage? His present autonomy rests upon the authority of tradition, 
and is its fruit. ^ 

Humanity does not exist outside of the individual man, or without 
him ; the individual man does not exist outside of humanity and without 
it. The individual and society are the object one of the other. Their 
apparently contradictory rights are, in reality, mutual duties. The 
moral dignity of a society is measured by what it does to educate and 
form the personality of its members, the moral dignity of an individual 
by what he does for his brothers, and for the social body to which he be- 
longs. The well-being of one necessarily depends on that of the other. 
Where individuality is weak, without initiative or energy, the social 
body, whatever its extent in space, is neither strong nor really great. 
That society which, to maintain itself, oppresses individual souls, and 
sacrifices their rights and their culture to its own tranquillity, is like 
a mother who should devour her children. The individual who, by his 
own selfishness, exploits or destroys the social bond, is the perverse or 
heedless child who, to warm himself, sets fire to the house of his fathers. 
Social authority and individual autonomy are not more hostile, and can 

* Appendix III. 



no more legitimately be opposed to one another, than the final destiny 
of man from that of humanity. 

And yet authority is never other than a power of fact. This is to 
say that it cannot be the philosophic explanation nor the ultimate reason 
of anything. A provisional and intermediary condition, a method of 
protecting the good acquired in the past, the explanation of authority 
lies in that which preceded it, and its justification in that which must 
follow it. When we accept political, philosophical, moral, or religious 
decisions, we suppose them, and those who promulgate them always sup- 
pose them, to be just and reasonable. An authority, whatever its 
nature, convicted of injustice and unreasonableness, falls under the 
dominion of the mind of him who submits to it. Whether willingly or 
unwillingly, authority must own the control of reason. In the historic 
evolution of humanity it represents a rational condition which maintains 
it as long as itself endures. When the condition is outworn authority 
must perforce change, whether it will or not. 

Formerly the father of the family had the power of life and death 
over his children and slaves, and could be called to account by no one 
for the way in which he treated them. Kings and priests had a power 
no less absolute over their subjects or their flock. Not very long ago 
the King of France, of his sole will, could throw a citizen into the 
Bastile; the French father could put his daughter into a convent, and 
the Church, with the aid of the civil power, could send a heretic to the 
scaffold. Why is all this impossible to-day.'' 

An established authority, however great its antiquity or its power, 
never carries its justification in itself. It must show itself reasonable 
to the awakened reason which demands its credentials. By that fact it has 
been changed. The fact must show itself reasonable, or, in other words, 
the budding law of reason tends to change itself into fact, by modi- 
fying the inward state. Authority can maintain itself only by becom- 
ing more moral ; by placing its supporting point always less apart from 
man, always more essentially within the man himself. The authority of 


material force, of custom, tradition, the code, more and more yields 
place to the inward authority of conscience and the reason, and in the 
same measure becomes transformed for the subject into a true autonomy. 
The sphere of rule is not decreased ; much the contrary ; the rule will be 
so much the better obeyed as it becomes immanent in the conscience and 
the will of man, and identifies itself with his own moral nature. Theft 
is a crime which public force represses. My property will be much 
better guarded if I live among thoroughly honest people than it could 
be by the intermittent vigilance of the policeman if I lived among 
thieves. The fear of the court-martial does not always deter the con- 
scienceless soldier from deserting in the face of the enemy ; but if patriot- 
ism has possession of me as a sacred duty, this sentiment will be more 
efficacious to make me a soldier faithful to the flag than all the threats 
in the world. There is all the diff^erence between legality and morality, 
between abstaining from evil and virtue. 

Far from leading to anarchy, the true autonomy, which is and can 
be no other than the true obedience and inward consecration of the soul 
to the law of goodness, can alone bring about the highest order and 
entire harmony. 

Being essentially progressive, and far removed from the state of 
perfection, neither authority nor autonomy may be posited as absolute. 
They act upon one another for mutual strength, and together they 
aspire toward the same ideal of right and justice. Autonomy, in action, 
transforms authority by gradually displacing its seat. So much the 
more does authority contribute to the development of autonomy. From 
their interaction results the progress of humanity. 

Thence it follows that every historic authority demands at once re- 
spect and criticism; respect because, being the expression of a given 
tradition, custom, social state, it brings us an inheritance by which we 
have profited and shall continue to profit; criticism, because by elevat- 
ing our conscience and reason, this very authority no longer represents 
anything other than a bygone phase of evolution, and its only reason 


for being must be a new progress. Free inquiry, with regard to author- 
ity, is not only a right, it is a duty. The new truth discovered by free 
inquiry is older and more venerable than the most venerable authority. 
After his years of scliool and apprenticeship, man is called by the very 
seriousness of life to revise the opinions of his master, to accept the 
heritage of the past only for what it is worth, to conduct himself toward 
the institutions of his country, with a view to making them better sub- 
serve the common good. This is the progress of human affairs; they 
never make better advance than when they are freed from the injurious 
constraint of a superstition which renders authority incapable of prog- 
ress, or a revolt which destroys it. The new generations which sub- 
mitted to authority now exercise it in their turn, and if they have truly 
profited by the experiences of their elders, they will exercise it after 
a much more reasonable and useful fashion. 

To conclude: Authority, in its true conception, is, and can be no 
other than relative. 


Of Authority m Matters of Religion 

This theory of the national genesis and social function of authority 
will easily be granted for the ordinary course of human things in gen- 
eral. But when the question is of religion, men stop and protest. They 
postulate for it an authority of another sort and origin, without which, 
they say, religion cannot be maintained. The divers religious ortho- 
doxies differ, as to the form or the seat of authority; some put it in 
the Bible, others in the Church ; but they are in accord as to its 

All of them claim that the authority which they have constituted 
within themselves is the expression of a divine authority. Supernatural 
in its institution, it must be infallible in its teaching and its decrees. 
This dogma becomes the foundation and guaranty of all the others. 


The method of authority asserts itself, and rehgion, sheltered from 
every commotion, remains motionless in the midst of universal mobility. 

Thus the question which is the object of our study is seen to be 
at least sharply circumscribed and defined. We are not concerned with 
those natural, historic, and human authorities, which are born of the 
very force of things, and are modified according to the evolution of the 
reason and the conscience, whose right of censure they accept or endure. 
Nothing is more natural, nor more easy to conceive and justify, than 
that authorities of this order should be organised in religious societies, 
and particularly in the Christian Church, to exercise the same tutelary 
and pedagogic function, respond to the same needs, and tend to the 
same end — the spiritual autonomy of believers. 

Who would deny, from this point of view, the action of the Church 
and the Bible ? Doubtless we must make reservations here ; nothing that 
takes place in history is perfect: light and shadow are everywhere 
mingled and everywhere in conflict. The family itself, sweetest and 
holiest of institutions, has been found capable of being an instrument 
of tyranny. But, taken all in all, where shall we find a higher or more 
universal school of respect and virtue than in the Church, a more effica- 
cious means of comfort and consolation than the communion of brethren, 
a safer tutelary shelter for souls still in their minority? And what 
part played in history is comparable to that of the Church in the history 
of European civilisation? On the other hand, what can we say of the 
Bible which would not fall short of the reality ? It is the book above 
all books, light of the conscience, bread of the soul, leaven of all reforms. 
It is the lamp that hangs from the arched roof of the sanctuary, to give 
light to those who are seeking God. The destiny of holiness on earth is 
irrevocably linked with the destiny of the Bible. 

Christianity can neither realise nor propagate itself without the 
Church; the Church cannot live without the Bible, that original source 
and classic norm of the religious life, as it is manifest in the Church 
itself. These are potencies of fact, of historic authority, and in their 


order come into being in no other way, are no otherwise developed and 
made active, than are political and pedagogical institutions in the civil 
order and in general culture. 

But just as in former times a political school, not satisfied with 
recognising natural rights, and anxious to defend the monarchical 
orders, sought to clothe its power with a supernatural and divine right, so 
the dogmatic of the ancient Fathers wrested the Bible and the Church 
from history, misapprehended their relative and conditioned character, 
and erected them into immediately divine authorities and infallible oracles. 
From that time the Church and the Bible have no longer been simply 
school teachers, who help the child to discover the truth for himself, 
and afterward to possess it in himself; they have been the model and 
matter of truth itself. From methods naturally designed to lead men to 
faith, they have become the first objects of faith. The first, and often 
the last article of the credo of more than one Christian, is to believe in 
the Bible. Strictly speaking, this dispenses with the others, since the 
others are contained in this, and depend upon it. 

Thus were formulated and established the fundamental dogmas of 
the Roman Catholic system and of the old Protestant system ; the super- 
natural authority of the Church, and the supernatural authority of the 
Bible, implying, as an inevitable consequence, the infallibility of one or 
the other. The critical examination of these two dogmas is laid upon us. 

What method shall we bring to it? Only one is of value to-day — 
that dictated by the scientific spirit. In the order of the moral sciences, 
it is the historical and critical method, including at once the testimony 
of psychology and of history. Is there in the course of historic evolu- 
tion any trace of the supernatural institution of an external, infallible 
authority, with mission to rule over all religious spirits? How were 
formed those dogmas which make this divine institution the first article 
of the Christian faith? These are questions of fact which, before all 
other things, depend upon history. 

We shall, therefore, put aside from the outset all abstract or utili- 


tarian arguments a 'priori^ which encumber the subject, such as these: 
God, having given to men a supernatural revelation, must have insti- 
tuted a supernatural authority, as much to preserve it from alteration, 
as to interpret it without error ; or, The greater part of our knowledge 
comes from the testimony of others; we live by authority, therefore 
there must be an infallible authority to teach us rehgious truth: or 
again : The benefits of the Church and the effects of the Bible excel all 
others, therefore the Church or the Bible, or both, must have been in- 
stituted by a miraculous act of God himself. It needs only to analyse 
such arguments to perceive that they move in a vicious circle, taking 
for granted what ought to be demonstrated, or that they are insufficient 
because of the infinite distance between the premisses and the conclusion. 

For more cogent reasons we shall pass over the political argument 
to which the name of Joseph de Maistre has been attached, and which is 
summed up in his famous book " Of the Pope " : The question is not 
whether the Pope is infallible, but whether he must be infallible; there 
is no religion without a church, there is no church without government, 
there is no government without a sovereign power, which definitely, and 
without appeal, sets a term to all controversy and debate. This is con- 
fusing infallibility of right with sovereignty in fact ; it makes religious 
truth a political fiction. It is an open profession that there is neither 
law for the conscience nor truth for the reason. Political minds may 
admire these reasonings, and make use of them; no philosophic spirit 
will ever bow before them. Against the brutal fact which would over- 
bear it, the reason lifts up an imprescriptible protest. 

Furthermore, every dogma has a history; a history which, while 
explaining it, also judges it: Die Geschichte ist ein Gericht. In the 
history of any doctrine there is an immanent dialectic which successively 
throws all its aspects into relief, deduces from them all their conse- 
quences, exposes all their contradictions, so that to follow the process 
is to learn how a system, an institution, a dogma, are formed, and to 
appreciate their value. 


Such is the method which we shall apply to the problem of authority 
in religious matters. The first two books of this work will be conse- 
crated to the history of the Roman Catholic and the Protestant dogmas 
of authority. In the third, we shall ask whether the very nature of 
Christianity does not exclude every rule of authority, whether the 
authoritative forms which until now it has worn were not, in the 
earlier period of its history, survivals of the antique religions which it 
believed itself to have abolished and replaced; finally, whether the re- 
ligion of the Spirit ought not to be, by that very fact, the religion of 
personal faith and of freedom.^ 

' 2 Cor. iii. 6, 17. See Descartes, "Discourse upon Method," 1635; Schleiermacher, 
"Monologues," 1800, " Der christl. Glatibe Einleit," 3. Ausg.. 1835; F. G. Fichte, 
" Die Bestimmung des Menschen," edit. 1845; Ketteler, Bishop of Mayence, " Freiheit, 
Autoritat, and Kirche," 3d edit., 1864. 





The Roman Catholic dogma of authority took about sixteen centuries 
for its constitution and definition. The contemporaries of Irenaeus and 
TertulHan saw its birth; in our own day we have seen its completion at 
the Vatican Council. In this long labour is condensed and summed up 
the entire evolution of the Roman Catholic Church. 

It is open to anyone to discern a divine work in this process of his- 
tory ; but even then it must be admitted that, in this case, the ways of 
Providence coincide and make one with the action of historic causes, 
which have never ceased, during this long period of time, to unfold their 
natural consequences. Miracle or mystery is in no part of this work, 
and another Montesquieu would find no more difficulty in explaining the 
singular history of Papal Rome than the first found in making intel- 
ligible the no less astonishing greatness and decadence of the Rome of 
kings, consuls, and Caesars. In default of genius, we believe that the 
patient and attentive study of events and of texts, considered in their 
progress and their interrelations, will suffice. 


The Formula of the Dogma 
While in full agreement in professing the general principle of the 
infallible authority of the Church and its tradition, Roman Catholics 
before the Council of 1870 were profoundly divided by the question: 
What is the seat of this principle, and what its organ.'' 


Since the end of the Middle Ages the theologians and jurisconsults 
of the Church had been divided into three schools. One followed the 
teaching of the University of Paris in the fifteenth century, and the 
Councils of Pisa, Constance, and Basel ; they placed the supreme author- 
ity in the Council General, and recognised its right to censure the Pope, 
and even, in case of need, to depose him for cause of scandal or 

More moderate and more conciliating, above all things unwilling to 
expose themselves to the danger of a rupture with the Roman See, or of 
misapprehending the prerogative of those whom they believed to be the 
successors of Peter, Gallicans like Bossuet placed authority, not in 
the Council alone, nor in the Pope alone, but in their definitive and 
necessary agreement. This collaboration and harmony represented in 
their eyes the plenary and total union of the Catholic Church, to which 
alone the promise of infallibility' had been made.^ Finally, the third 
school, the ultramontane, of which Joseph de Maistre and Louis 
Veuillot were the most ardent apostles during the first half of the nine- 
teenth century, placed the Pope above the Council General, anathema- 
tised the Gallicism of Bossuet, and claimed for the person of the vicar 
of Christ alone the supernatural privilege of infallibility, the right and 
power to define the faith and to decide all controversies. 

Thus three conceptions of the Church and its government confronted 
one another. According to the first, the Church was an aristocratic re- 
public (the body of bishops), whose president might be nominated and 
deposed at need by the Council General, the authentic representative of 
the whole body. According to the second, the Church was a constitu- 
tional monarchy, the law of which resulted from the consent and accord 
of the two arms of power. And, finally, according to the third, it was 
an absolute monarchy, in which all rights and powers were concentrated 
in the person of the sovereign and flowed from him. 

This last doctrine was destined to triumph in the end, because it 
' Appendix IV. * Appendix V. 


was imbedded in the logic of the generative principle of Roman Cathol- 

Doubtless it was entirely unknown in the early centuries of the 
Church, although Cyprian and Augustine did indeed unwittingly 
posit its premisses in their theory of the Chair of St. Peter. But it was 
affirmed with great brilliancy and power in the theocratic programmes of 
Gregory VII, Innocent III, and Boniface VIII/ If it underwent an 
eclipse in the crisis of the Papacy in the fifteenth century, it was not 
slow to reassert itself in the sixteenth, finding then in the Company of 
Jesus an admirable army of defence, which in theory and in fact made 
it victorious. Thenceforth everything lent it aid, quite as much the 
impotent attacks of its adversaries as the apologies of its advocates. 
It was an unequal struggle between the Council and the papacy. 

One was intermittent, the other was always there. From the time 
that the power to convoke the Council and interpret its decisions was 
reposed in the Pope, he became its master. He had only to make effec- 
tive that right of sovereign arbiter and supreme interpreter of the 
thought of the Church which the Council of Trent had recognised as his. 
The Roman curia was prudently careful not to bring forward before 
its hour the dogmatic question of infallibility. It left fact and habit 
to create law and dogma, and limited its own action to rigorous con- 
demnation of those who still held the contrary doctrine, obliging them to 
recant or keep silent. Thus the world became accustomed to look upon 
Rome as the fountain of divine authority in the Church. Whoever re- 
fused to accept its decisions soon found himself cut off from Catholic 
communion. In 1854 Pius IX made the first trial of his power. He 
consulted the bishops without calling them together for deliberation, 
and then, upon his own pontifical authority, added a new dogma, that 
of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin, to the Credo of the Church. 
Protestations were vigorous, but few and impotent. The time was ripe. 
He who exercised such a power should possess it by law. It was possible 
and it had become necessary to give final definition to this sovereign 

'Appendix VI. 


authority, and secure its recognition by the entire Church. The 
proclamation of the dogma in an Ecumenical Council would be the solemn 
abdication of the rights and powers of Councils into the hands of the 
papacy. For this purpose the Vatican Council was convoked in 1870, 
whence was promulgated the dogma of the personal infallibility of the 

The infallible authority of the Council infallibly created the in- 
fallible authority of the Pope, and by that act died. There could not 
be two infallibilities in the Church. In questions of faith and morals, tht- 
Pope has sovereign authority apart from the Council. The Council 
apart from the Pope would have no authority. Appeal to the Council, 
so frequent in past centuries, has become an absurdity. To convoke it 
would be a useless luxury. 

The decree concerning the infallibility of the Pope was voted on 
July 18, 1870, with unanimity of all members of the Council present, 
save two. The other opposing members had preferred to absent them- 
selves from Rome. The following is the definitive formula: 

" Conformably to the tradition faithfully followed since the begin- 
ning of the Christian faith, with the approbation of the holy Council, 
we teach and define this as divinely revealed dogma: 

" The Roman Pontiff, when speaking ex cathedra — that is, when 
performing the office of Pastor and Doctor of all Christians he defines, 
in virtue of his superior apostolic authority, a point of doctrine touching 
faith and morals, obligatory for the entire Church — the Roman Pontiff, 
thanks to the divine assistance which was promised to him in the person 
of the Most Blessed Peter, enjoys'that infallible authority with which 
the divine Redeemer endowed his Church, when the question arises of 
defining doctrine concerning faith or morals. The definitions of the 
Roman Pontiff are then unchangeable in themselves, and are not ren- 
dered such by the consent of the Church. If anyone — which God for- 
bid! — is presumptuous enough to contradict our definition, let him be 


Side by side with this decree we may place the parallel decree of the 
same Council upon the jurisdiction of the Pope: 

" The Roman Pontiff has not only the office of inspection and direc- 
tion, but also full and supreme power of jurisdiction over the universal 
Church, not only in things which concern faith and morals, but also in 
those which concern the discipline and government of the Church in the 
whole universe. Not only does he possess the highest parts of this power, 
but he has it in all its plenitude. And this his power is ordinary and im- 
mediate, as much over all the Churches in general, and each Church in 
particular, as over each Pastor and all the faithful of whatever rite or 
dignity they may be. If anyone denies it, let him be anathema ! " 

From the comparison of these two texts emerges with perfect clear- 
ness the mind of the Vatican Council. The first defines the dogmatic 
authority of the supreme Doctor of the Church ; the second explains the 
absolute sovereignty of the pastor. One cannot doubt the decisions of 
the one without falling into heresy, nor, without falling into revolt, re- 
fuse the obedience always due to the other. It will not suffice to adhere 
to the definitions of the commandments which the Apostolic See has given 
in the past, one must also be ready to accept everything which it may 
advise or decide in the future. Thus recently decreed Pius IX and 
Leo XIII. . . . "In the difficult course of events, Catholic believers, 
if they will give heed to us as they are bound to do, will see what are the 
duties of each, as much in the opinions which they ought to hold as in 
the things which they ought to do. In the matter of thinking, it is 
necessary for them to embrace and firmly hold all that the Roman Pon- 
tiffs have transmitted to them, or shall yet transmit, and to make public 
profession of them as often as circumstances make necessary. Espe- 
cially and particularly in what is called ' modem liberties,' they must 
abide by the judgment of the Apostolic See, and each believer is bound 
to believe thereupon what the Holy See itself thinks." * 

* Appendix VII. 



The Meaning of the Dogma 

It would seem difficult to dispute the meaning or the bearing of a dogma 
formulated with such juridical precision. Nothing that concerns the 
life of the Christian or of the Church is foreign to it. This being so, 
of what use can it be to discuss at length, as has been done, the words ex 
cathedra, or other conditions of pontifical infallibility? Whether the 
Pope speaks ex cathedra or not — that is, in his capacity as universal 
Doctor, or universal Pastor — is a point never left to the judgment of 
the individual mind. So soon as a Catholic believer experiences a doubt 
upon the subject it is his first and sacred duty not to draw from that 
fact a pretext for non-obedience, but to refer the question to the Roman 
See itself, which here, as in all other cases, remains sole and sovereign 
judge. No opposition of any sort can find a legitimate basis in the 
formula of the dogma. To be sure, upon points indifferent to their 
authority, the Popes may permit, and in fact they do permit, in Church 
or school, a certain degree of liberty. But it is not a liberty founded in 
right, I mean in the dignity of the spirit or of the conscience. It never 
exists except upon those points and within those limits where it pleases 
the Roman See to tolerate it. 

Being no longer able to dispute the absolute character of the dogma, 
liberal Catholics endeavour to annul it by reducing it to a pure symbol. 
According to them, the person of the Pope speaking ex cathedra can 
have only a representative value. The proclamation of his infallibility 
can have changed nothing in the Church. The pontifical voice would 
never be anything other than the echo of the voice of Catholic Christian- 
ity. In the latter essentially resides infallible inspiration. The Pope 
is the exterior hour hand which marks the time on the dial plate of the 
Church, which, in reality, is itself moved by more hidden springs, by the 
profound and mysterious movements which come to life and succeed one 
another in the general consciousness of the entire body. The Church 


obeys the Pope only in appearance. It is the Pope who, in reality, obeys 
the Soul of the Church. 

Thus is the identification of the Pope and the Church posited at the 
same time by liberals and ultramontanes. The former use it to annul the 
Pope, the latter to annul the Church. 

The truth of the dogma is with the latter. To make it evident to all 
eyes they have only to recall this clause of the decree : Pontificis romani 
definitiones ex sese, non autem ex consensu ecclesicc irreformabiles. 
Whence it appears that the infallibility of the Pope is entirely personal, 
independent and absolute. This separation of the Pope and the Church, 
of the head and the body, is indeed the greatest innovation of the Council 
of the Vatican, and without doubt the most dangerous. By it the 
Council broke with the ancient tradition and opened a new era in the 
historic evolution of Catholicism. 

Let us here establish against all subterfuges the integrity of a dogma 
which timid consciences can bring themselves neither to reject nor fully 
to accept. The Pope depends only upon God. From God he imme- 
diately draws his enlightenment, his graces, and his powers, which with 
divine authority he afterwards transmits to the bishops and through 
them to the entire Church. To seek to overthrow the order of this 
hierarchy, to make the life and faith of the Church depend upon the 
Holy Spirit by direct means and immediate communication, in such sort 
that the inspiration of the Pope would be only a derived inspiration, 
would be to destroy the new dogma, root and branch. The Holy Spirit 
is not in the Pope because he is first in the Church, an invisible and 
immanent power; he is in the Church only by the intermediary and the 
visible presence of the Pope.^ 

As grace inheres in the visible matter of the sacrament, so the gift 
of the Spirit inheres in the person of the Sovereign Pontiff. His per- 
sonal infallibility, which comes historically as the cornice of the edi- 
fice, becomes dogmatically its foundation. One is in communion with 
»Pezzani, "Codex S. Ecclesiae romanae," 1893, Canon 35, p. 96. 


the Church onl}- as he remains in communion with the Pope. If by 
any possibihty the entire body of the Church, that is to say, the totahty 
of bishops, priests, and people, should separate themselves from the 
Pope and reject his definitions and his decrees, it would not be that the 
Pope was in error, but that the Church herself had departed from the 

Furthermore, the Roman canonists, with invincible logic, have 
deduced all the practical consequences which flow from the formula of 
the dogma. No issue is left open to those who would escape them. 
The following, with and under authority of the Pope, is taught in 
the course of canon law in the Roman University : 

" To the Roman pontiff are due from all Catholics honour and obedi- 
ence, even when — which God forbid — the Pope is a bad man." ^ 

It is an error to assert that the power of the Pope may be limited 
by the canons of ecclesiastical law, by the customs or institutions of the 
Church; the Pope is above the canon law. As to natural or divine 
law, doubtless the Pope cannot be freed from it, but he remains its 
supreme and infallible interpreter, so that, as a matter of fact, one can 
never be in the right in setting them up against him. Equally it would 
be idle or even ridiculous to oppose to him the Holy Scriptures or 
Catholic tradition, since he alone holds the key to both, that is, their 
authentic and legitimate interpretation.^ 

The Roman Pontiff has full authority over all Councils, even Ecu- 

When he makes a Concordat with the head of a potential State, this 
Concordat is not the least in the world synallagmatic and equal in its 
two parts. The prince is bound to conform himself to it, because it 
is his Christian duty to obey the Holy See. But the Pope, in accepting 
the Concordat, makes a purely gracious concession, always revocable 

' lb.. Can. 29. 

* lb., Can. 33. Ihe Pope has the right, if he please, to designate tiis successor 
(Can. 48). 


whenever such a concession may turn to the detriment of the Church, 
or when it simply ceases to be of any utility to the Church,^ 

Even in the matter of opinions which concern neither dogma nor 
morals, it is of strict obligation to receive and to profess, the case occur- 
ring, all past, present, and future instructions and directions of the 
sovereign Pontiffs. And it is not enough to yield them external obedi- 
ence in silence and respect. The only worthy and religious obedience 
is inward, the obedience of the heart.' 

So soon as faith becomes nothing other than submission to an external 
authority, theology is necessarily reduced to be the mere redaction of 
a code of canon law. Is a discussion raised in the Church, the con- 
testing powers soon cease to argue, and seek to evoke a decision of the 
Roman court, which shall crush the adversary and put an end to the 
dispute. Religious truth is then not a matter of knowledge or« of 
reason, but of politics and diplomacy. 

In the Roman system it becomes thenceforth impossible to find the 
slightest basis for a constitutional opposition to the sovereignty of the 
Pope. The government of the Pope, being the government of God, is 
necessarily absolute. Theocracy is the foundation of the dogma of 
the Vatican.' 

If the utterance of the Pope is the source of truth, of law, of the 
salvation of individuals and of peoples, if his prescriptions ought to be 
law by the mere fact that they come bearing his seal, it is evident that 
no human sentiment, no demonstration of fact, no cry of conscience, no 
claim of humanity or of patriotism would have a feather's weight against 
the least important decretal. 

The dogma of the infallibiHty of the Pope is something entirely 
different from a theological theory. The deified papacy is an actual 
government, with its organs, its functionaries, its court, its magistrates. 

'/&., Can. 34 and Commentary. 

»76., Can. 29, p. 81; Pius IX, Constitutio Qvanta cura, 1864. 

nb., Can. 40, 49. 


At the same time, the Roman curia is raised above the political order 
and the supernatural and divine order, to serve as the organ of the 
most limitless power which the world has ever known. 

It is very remarkable that the same year which saw the spiritual 
power of the Popes raised to its climax saw the end of their temporal 
power. In fact, since the sixteenth century a continual movement 
toward emancipation had been enfranchising the politics, science, edu- 
cation, and civil life of modern states from the effective tutelage of 
the Church. In the temporal order the claims of the Roman theocracy 
have become almost inoffensive, thanks to the material impotence of the 
Pope. None the less do they persist as a moral and metaphysical 
authority whose sphere of action is of immense range. In this quality 
they are open to discussion, and discussion is precisely their gravest 
danger. They can neither refuse nor maintain it. An authority which 
discusses ceases to be absolute, since by the mere fact of discussing and 
advancing arguments it recognises the supremacy of the tribunal of 

Such is the contradiction to which the Vatican dogma has reduced 
Catholic theology. It cannot undertake to prove the dogma without 
by that very act destroying it. 


The Root of the Dogma and Its Constituent Elements 

Considered by itself, the dogma of the infallibility of a single man, to 
whom all others are obliged in conscience to submit the direction of their 
religious thought and the conduct of their moral life, remains incom- 
prehensible and intolerable, a defiance of common sense. But the Roman 
Catholic dogma is very easily accounted for from the historic point 
of view, if it be studied in its profound connection with the earlier evolu- 
tion of the Church. It is its logical conclusion and fulfilment. 

The new dogma has its roots in the Catholic conception of the Church 


itself. It grows therefrom as the plant grows from the seed sown in 
the ground. The infallibility of the Pope is simply the last expression 
and perfected form of the infallibility of the Church. What would 
an abstract infallibility be, which had not an organ infallible like itself, 
by which to exercise itself and rule in the world of facts .'* 

The infallibility of the Pope is derived in law and in fact from the 
infallibihty of the Church. 

In law, the thesis is clear ; one syllogism suffices to establish it. If 
the Council is infallible the Pope is infallible too, for the Council has 
so declared him. If the Pope is not infallible, neither is the Ecumenical 
Council, and in this case the authority of the Council is destroyed and 
the entire system of Catholic authority falls to pieces. 

Thus it becomes clear how the new dogma, impossible as it seemed 
to be, so easily triumphed over its opponents. The opposition encoun- 
tered at the Vatican and in the Church was vain, because it was without 
principle or basis. Nothing was left for the Gallicans and liberal 
Catholics but arguments of procedure. They attacked vices of form 
in the convocations or in the deliberations and notes of the Council, feeble 
weapons which fell from their trembling hands so soon as the Council 
itself had declared its proceedings regular. Then those opposing were 
reduced to the alternative of unconditional submission or persistent hold- 
ing to their individual opinion, the principle of Protestantism and of all 
heresy. It is to-day logically impossible to believe in the infallibility 
of the Church without believing in that of its head, for the first has 
no other real expression except the second. 

Facts speak more loudly than the law, and history more cogently 
than logic. 

From having been, in the apostolic times, a pure democracy, the 
Church became a great federation governed by its bishops ; it was an 
aristocratic system. Later the primacy of the Bishop of Rome made of 
it a monarchy, at first tempered by Councils, then more and more cen- 
tralised, omnipotent, and finally absolute. The same political necessity 


which had raised the sccond-centurj bishop above the Council of Elders, 
and made him the symbol and representative of the unity of the local 
church, elevated the Bishop of Rome above the other bishops and made 
him the personification and head of the entire Catholic body. The 
person of the Supreme Pontiff should therefore not be considered as in 
itself an ordinary and empirical individuality ; he is essentially repre- 
sentative and symbolic, like the person of the priest at the altar or in 
the confessional, like the substance apparent in the sacrament. In him 
a mystery takes place at the moment when he seats himself upon the 
Chair of Peter. He is the concentration of the whole Church, as the 
Church in its turn, in its entire hierarchy and extent, is merely the 
development in time and space of that which is first of all in the very 
person of her chief. 

The Pope is the sun of which bishops and priests are the rays to 
carry the light and life to the very extremities of the body of the Church. 
From thenceforth the bishops could not test the prerogative of the 
papacy without destroying their own by the same stroke. 

Thus the dogma of the personal infallibility of the Pope is im- 
planted by all its rootlets in the more general dogma of the infallibility 
of the Church. It is its necessary and final form. Without doubt, this 
form annuls and supplants all preceding forms of authority', bishops 
or Councils, and in this sense it is true that it operated a great change 
and even a revolution in the Church. But this revolution came about 
in the same nianner as those preceding, and succeeded by virtue of the 
same logic and for the same reasons. The principle remains the same 
under the changing variety of its manifestations, and the principle 
resides in this, that the infallibility of the Church can be apparent and 
active only by quitting the abstract sphere and becoming, so to speak, 
incarnate in a visible organ, priest, Council or Pope.^ 

^ Vide Scherer, " Etudes sur la litt. contemporaine," v, pp. 341-361, " la Papautd, 
TEglise et la soci6t6 moderne " ; Thomassin, " Ancienne et nouvelle discipline de 
I'Eglise," 1678-79, and "Dissertations sur les conciles"; Bossuet, "Sermon sur 
I'unit^ de I'Eglise et la declaration de 1682 " ; P. Gratry, " Lettres sur le Pape Hono- 


The notion of the Church, in its turn, resolves into two elements. 
It is constituted of a doctrinal element, that is, the tradition which 
guards the supernatural deposit of divine truth, and which must at the 
same time justify the rights which the Church arrogates to herself and 
the absolute submission to her mysteries and precepts which she demands 
from everyone. The other element, the organ of action and administra- 
tion in the Church, is the Episcopate, without which doctrinal tradition 
would remain uncertain and vacillating, like every human tradition. 
Constituted in its essence by the theory of the apostolic succession, the 
Episcopate is a living chain across the centuries, parallel to that of the 
doctrinal tradition, an unbroken link of the Church of the present to 
its supernatural origins, that is, to the apostles, to Christ, and to God. 

Church, tradition, supernatural priesthood, episcopate, papacy, 
such, in the order of their historical genealogy, are the constituent ele- 
ments of the Catholic dogma of authority. It is possible to under- 
stand the latter clearly, and judge it with all impartiality, only by 
tracing back its long genesis. We shall see the divers factors of which 
it is the fruit successively developing in history from their most distant 
origins to their latest consequences, beginning with that very notion of 
the Church which is earliest in date and which has engendered all the 

rius," 1870; Lord Acton, "History of the Vatican Councils," 1871; A. Harnack, 
" Dogmengeschichte," 1890, iii. p. 565-653; Joseph de Maistre, "Du pape" ; "Acta et 
Decreta Concilii Vaticani," 1891 (CoUectio Lacensis vli.). 



The Catholic Notion of the Church 

The idea of the Church is not only the keystone of the Roman Catholic 
system, it is Roman Catholicism itself; in it the entire system is con- 
densed and summed up. 

The property of the Catholic conception is to present religion itself 
as a supernatural institution ; a sacerdotal and hierarchical institution ; 
that is, a visible and permanent corporation, charged by God himself 
to teach men what they ought to believe and do, and to save them. 
The Church is the ark of the new covenant which Jesus Christ, the new 
Noah, built with his own hands, and confided to an elect crew to rescue 
the lost and wanderers of earth and carry them safely to the shores of 

In this dogma of the Church, the real and the ideal, the human and 
the divine, are not only reconciled, but identified and made inseparable. 
The Church is the historic and visible incarnation of saving truth, and 
of the redemptive work of God. To speak of an invisible church be- 
comes a futility ; it is to say that the incarnation has not taken place. 

The most profound and authoritative Catholic theologians of to-day 
love to iiisist upon the likeness and parallel between the incarnation of 
divinity in the person of the Christ and the incarnation of religion 
itself in the body of the Church. The second is represented as the con- 
sequence of the first, which thus perpetuates itself through the cen- 
turies. The divine Word had need of a visible organ and a human 

' Tertullian. 


medium in order to communicate himself to men. Like the Christ, the 
visible Church is therefore conceived and organised by the Holy Spirit 
in the bosom of humanity. It is still the Word made f,esh; it is the very 
Son of God continuing, after his resurrection, to appear among men 
in a human form which perpetually renews and rejuvenates itself. Like 
the person of Christ, the Church is at once human and divine. In the 
Church the two notions communicate and interpenetrate in the unity of 
a supernatural life and activity. The divine element is the soul of the 
Church, which vivifies and leaves its imprint upon the entire body, that 
is, the human mass which by itself is inert and passive. 

From this point of view nothing is more logical or becomes more 
natural than the dogma of the infallibility of the Church, or the current 
axiom that outside the Church there is no salvation. If the Church is 
nothing other than the institution of salvation, created by God to res- 
cue men from death and damnation, they being all necessarily con- 
demned by original sin, it is very clear that outside of her none can 
be saved. And on the other hand, if the Church is divine truth incar- 
nate, how can she err ? To accuse the Church of error is to accuse God 
himself of mistake or deception; it is to say that the truth is not the 

There are two definitions of the Catholic Church, one general and 
one restricted. 

In the general sense, the Church is the visible society of aU who pro- 
fess its faith and partake in its sacraments, in the obedience due to its 
legitimate pastors and to the Roman Catholic Pontiff. But considered 
in its inward essence and in the restricted sense of the word, the Church 
is, above all things, the sacerdotal and hierarchical order divinely estab- 
lished, the direct heir of the rights and privileges of the apostles. Was 
it not, indeed, the apostles to whom the promises were made, upon whom 
powers were conferred, to whom the mission of teaching men and making 

'J. A. Moehler, " Symbolik oder Darstellung der Dogm.," chapter on the Church; 
Perrone, " Th6ol. dogm. Traits des lieux th^olog." 


them holy was confided, as is the proper task and end of the Church? 
There are, then, actually two Churches in the Church; the one teaching 
and governing, the other taught and governed; one active, the other 
passive. It is the essential distinction between cleric and layman/ 

There is this difference between the Catholic and the Protestant con- 
ceptions of the Church, that according to the latter inward virtues, such 
as the sincerity of faith and the reality of conversion, are required in 
order to become members of the true Church of Christ, while Catholic 
theologians simply require external marks, like the profession of the 
true faith and participation in the sacraments, which are of a nature 
to be apprehended by the senses. The reason for this is simple: if 
inward virtues are required, they being invisible and always uncertain, 
it is impossible to know who are the true members of the Church, nor, 
consequently, where is the true Church. We necessarily reach the dis- 
tinction made by heretics between the visible Church, which may be 
false and faithless, and the true Church, which would be invisible. As 
it is above all things important that there should be neither doubt nor 
uncertainty as to the place in which, and the persons in whom, the true 
Church resides, it is of the highest necessity to require, for their recog- 
nition, nothing invisible or occult, and consequently nothing purely 
spiritual and moral. 

" The Church," says Bellarmin, " is an organised social body as 
visible and palpable as the Roman people, the Republic of Venice, or the 
Kingdom of France." It is a true state, to which one belongs, as to any 
other, by an external and legal tie. 

The Church, like every political state, includes two sorts of mem- 
bers, the, good and the evil, docile subjects and those rebellious or im- 
pious." Here, as elsewhere, it belongs to the heads and possessors of 
legitimate authority to preserve the good and to subdue the evil by 
exhortations, laws, and chastisements. 

As political states are recruited by birth, so the Church is recruited 
•Perrone, ib. "Roman Catechism,!. 10, 6. 


by baptism. The act of baptism is the external proof that one legiti- 
mately belongs to it. A baptised person may be unbelieving or rebel- 
lious; he remains none the less the subject of the Church, and the Church 
has always the right to claim him. 

This theory rests upon the initial fact of a supernatural institution. 
The Church is not the effect of the psychological and social law which 
decrees that every religion, since it contains an eminent social principle, 
shall create a religious society by its own expansion. No, the Church 
is a creation of God. How, without a miracle, should the first realisa- 
tion of the Christian idea have been adequate to this principle ? Founded 
upon an eternal decree, the Church instituted by Christ is to all its mem- 
bers pre-existent. It is a metaphysical entity descended from heaven in 
historic time, prepared for and prefigured in the Old Covenant, reigning 
sovereign in the New. Such is the doctrine of Cyprian, Augustine, 
Bossuet, and Leo XIII. 

But the modern historian never presupposes a miracle. However 
imposing may be the destinies of the Church, or its still more loft}' 
claims, its birth, its development, its triumphs, and it", reverses are none ?^ 
the less a series of phenomena, interlinked and conditioned by the cir- 
cumstances of time and place, like all other historic phenomena. If 
miracle is found neitlier In the circumstances nor the progress of this 
history, in which have met and mingled all the social forces of two thou- 
sand years, why should it have occurred in its beginning? Why should 
not the fortunes of the Rome of the Popes be naturally explicable bj> 
a concurrence of causes more numerous indeed, but not less discernible, 
than the fortunes of the Rome of the consuls and Caesars? 

All the great empires, all the great societies of former days, were 
equally attributed to divine origin. Historical criticism has always 
been able to trace, through the golden haze of legend, the ordinary 
course of human societies, everywhere marked by inevitable struggles 
and sorrows. The fables woven around the cradle of the papacy are of 
no greater historic value for being of another order than those which 


-"Surrounded that of Romulus with a divine nimbus. We can mark the 
date of their appearance in history. They go no farther back than the 
third century. 

It was only after the Church had constituted herself an infallible 
oracle and an organised political power, that anyone dreamed of justify- 
ing in theory that which had triumphed in fact. From one end of the 
history of the Catholic Church to the other we can note this circum- 

V stance. Dogma never consecrates anything that has not already passed 
into practice for a century or two. The Episcopal power had long 
prevailed in the whole Church before Cyprian made it the dogmatic 
theory. The Immaculate Conception of Mary, the personal infallibility 
of the Pope, had already been long triumphant when Pius IX made 
dogmas of these beliefs. Let us then establish the true relations: it is 
not the dogmatic and supernatural theory of the Church which makes 

V its strength, it is the strength and victory of the Church which leads 
to the theory. Therefore, the strength and the victory came from else- 
where and should be otherwise explained. 

Having now been studied for nearly a century by the most impar- 
tial and rigorous historic method, the problem of the historic origin 
of the Roman Catholic Church and the theory which consecrates its 
claims has been illuminated by the brightest possible light. Deeply 
rooted in the Hebraic religion, germinating in the earliest Christian 
communities, developed and gradually prepared by a great variety of 
conflicts and a continuous succession of efforts, the Catholic notion of 
the Church first appears distinct and ready to be established in triumph 
only in the time of Irenasus, Clement, Tertullian, and especially of 
Cyprian. Passing from the second century to the third, the sensation 
is as if one passed from one world to another. A revolution has taken 
place. Behind the Catholic form of Christianity there are more ancient 
forms not difficult to discern, which remain like the landmarks of a road 
once followed, and until our own days almost forgotten. 



The Messianic Kingdom and the Church 

The original germ of the Catholic Church is the Messianic idea of the 
" Kingdom of God " or " of Heaven." It claims to be this very king- 
dom, the object of the hopes and prayers of the prophets and seers of 
Israel. And yet how different are the two conceptions ! The Kingdom 
of Heaven, as its name indicates, was to come from heaven at the end 
of time. Men were expecting, at no long delay, the supreme catas- 
trophe which should introduce the judgment of God, reward each man 
according to his works, put an end to the reign of the powers of evil, 
and inaugurate that of righteousness and peace.^ 

This is what John the Baptist proclaimed in his energetic and 
familiar figures of speech : " The axe is laid unto the root of the trees, 
therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down 
and cast into the fire." ^ Jesus intended nothing else when, taking up 
the same theme, he said : " The time is fulfilled and the Kingdom of 
Grod is at hand ; repent ye and believe the gospel." ^ 

What relation is there between this apocalyptic and transcendent 
conception and the idea of a religious society politically organised, 
living in history side by side with terrestrial powers, having like them 
its chiefs, its laws, interests, diplomacy; treating with them or battling 
against them to maintain and extend its hard-won privileges and con- 
quests? How, and by what succession of changes in facts and ideas, 
did the Jewish Messianic idea become the Catholic conception of the 
Church in the third century.? These are the precise terms of the prob- 
lem which the origins of Christianity set before the historian and the 

* Daniel vii. 13, 14, and all Jewish and Christian apocalyptic, 

*Matt. iii. 10. 

*Mark i. 15. [The French translation is more vigorous: "Repent, for the measure 
of the time is full! The Kingdom of God is at the door; receive the good news in 
faith. — Trans.] 


When we attribute to Jesus this Catholic conception of the Church, 
or simply the intention of founding something analagous to it, we fall 
into the most artless of anachronisms. Not only he did not will this 
Church ; he could not even have foreseen it, for the good reason that he 
thought himself to have come in the last days of the world, and all this 
historic development of Christianity was outside of his Messianic 

Since the appearance of the book of Daniel all pious souls in Israel 
had believed themselves to be living in the last period of history. The 
preaching of the Baptist had vivified this belief throughout all Palestine. 
Jesus assuredly shared it. The Kingdom of Heaven, for whose advent he 
undertook to prepare, because he expected it shortly to appear, was not 
a Church organised and established on earth, but the great revolution 
predicted by the prophets and described in the apocalypses, the striking 
manifestation of the righteousness and faithfulness of God. No doubt 
he knew neither the day nor the hour of this event, and, unlike the 
makers of apocalypses, he attempted no illusory calculations ; but neither 
did he doubt that the catastrophe of the drama in which he was engaged 
was imminent. " The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand," he said ; " its 
era has already risen in the hearts of men. This generation shall not 
pass away until the divine trump shall have sounded." ^ This being the 
case, what interest could he have in organising a social institution for 
a long future.'* 

The apostles whom he commissioned were neither priests nor eccle- 
siastical functionaries ; they were simple messengers, bearers of the good 
tidings of the Kingdom. They were not to have finished visiting the 
cities of Israel before the Son of Man should appear.^ In the mean- 
time, Jesus simply sought to group around himself the elect of God, 
obscure, scattered, and poor, to await with them the signal which the 
Father would give. Therefore he never had the idea of any other 
social bond than their attachment to his person, any other organisation 
'Appendix VIII. » Matt. x. 23. 


than their mutual good will, any other hierarchy than the reversed 
hierarchy of the greatest humility and the most self -forgetful love, most 
devoted to the welfare of others.^ 

Assuredly his work had the future for its own, and was bound to 
conquer the world, because he laid its groundwork in the deep and im- 
mutable foundation of the human conscience. The words of life which, 
under this temporary Messianic form, he implanted in souls could not 
but fructify in history in every possible way. But the perspective of 
centuries to come was closed to him. He walked by faith in the love 
and righteousness of the Father, and not by sight, and none may say 
that his faith was deceived. None the less does it remain a fact that 
no one would have been more astonished and scandalised than he, had he 
been able to foresee all that men bearing his name, and making use of 
his authority, were to present to the world as his work or his thought.^ 

In the direction of the future the horizon was still less open to 
the gaze of the apostles and the first generation of Christians. Per- 
suaded that the Messiah had come, they could not imagine that the 
world would last long. Without a single exception they awaited from 
day to day the triumphant return of their Master upon the clouds of 
heaven. The whole Apocalypse of St. John is built upon this hope. 
Paul was no exception. Almost to the close of his career he believed 
that he should see before death this glorious revolution and the resur- 
rection of the dead. Such an absorbing vision filled the believers with 
ardent enthusiasm, detached them from the earth, took away all anxiety 
for the future. They lived in a fever of exaltation. The necessities 
of common life, like its laws, seemed to them abolished.^ 

The picture of the first Christian community of Corinth which we 
find in the letters of Paul, not less than that of the Christians of Jerusa- 
lem in the Acts of the Apostles, give an exact idea of this first period 
of individual inspiration and free expression. The elect lived in the 
age as not belonging to it. They considered themselves as strangers 
>Matt. xxiii. 8-12; Mark, x. 42-45. "Appendix IX. 'Appendix X. 


and travellers, who pass along without thinking of any enduring estab- 
lishment. The individual gifts (charisms) apportioned by the Spirit 
to divers members of the community met all needs. The Spirit, acting 
in each believer, thus determined vocations, and portioned out to one 
and another, according to the faculties or the zeal of each, ministries 
and offices which appear to have been provisional.^ 

But with the passage of time things were certain to change. These 
embryos of organisms, spontaneously opening to the light in divers 
forms, could not but determine and assert themselves. The charism of 
the Spirit was destined soon to become a permanent ecclesiastical func- 
tion. Above or side by side with the apostles, prophets, and teachers 
who held their vocation directly from Grod alone, and who were essentially 
itinerants, each community naturally drew from its own body its settled 
ministers, elders, bishops, and deacons charged with the general interests 
of the community, with the maintenance of discipline and the distribu- 
tion of alms. Thus came into being and grew up side by side with 
the free and nomad apostolate a settled ecclesiastical functionality, which 
was destined little by little to replace and absorb it. The progress of 
this absorption marks the progress of the Catholic conception of the 
Church, and this became perfected when, in virtue of the theory of 
apostolic succession, divine inspiration and ecclesiastical jurisdiction 
were held to be absolutely coincident.^ 

The first Christian communities, composed at first of members equal 
among themselves and distinguished solely by varieties in the gifts of 
the Spirit, became in time organised bodies, veritable churches, which 
at first developed and took on different physiognomies according to the 
diversities of their geographical and social surroundings. In Palestine 
and beyond the Jordan the Christian community was modelled upon the 
Jewish synagogue, and apparently bore the same Aramaean name. In 

' 1 Cor. xii., xiv.; Rom. xii. 3-9. 

'This evolution, which appears as accomplished«in the epistles called "Pastoral" 
and in the Epistles of Ignatius, was not yet universal in the time of the " Teaching of 
the Apostles." See " Teaching of the Apostles," xii,, xiii., xiv., xv. 


the Occident it appears to have reproduced the form of pagan colleges 
or associations, so numerous in Greek cities at that epoch. 

In all this there is neither divine institution nor miracle of any sort, 
but simply the play and effect of general laws which rule social phe- 
nomena of this order. It may all be luminously explained in each region 
of the empire by the action of natural causes which come under the 
historian's observation. 

Yet the evolution of every organism is governed by a directing idea, 
which is as its perfect latent soul. This idea is no more wanting here 
than elsewhere. It appears in the very earliest beginning. 

The Christian communities scattered through the empire entertained 
frequent relations with one another; they received the visits and teach- 
ings of the same gospel messengers, or date back to the same apostles. 
All the communities founded by Paul, for example, had very close family 
ties. They were the children of the same father. It is therefore nat- 
ural that they should have had from the beginning a very vivid con- 
sciousness of their spiritual unity, and that above the particular and 
local churches should have appeared, precisely as in the letters of the 
Apostle to the Gentiles, the idea of The Church of God or of Christ, 
one and universal. The principle of unity was found in this, that Chris- 
tians who are united to Christ live by the same moral life, and are con- 
scious of being in the same religious relation to God, and animated by 
the same spirit and the same hope of the eternal life upon which they 
are to enter. The Apostle Paul therefore conceives of the Church of 
the saints and the elect as an organ of the Christ, his very body, in 
which the Christ, who is its head, manifests all the virtues of his spirit 
and sheds forth the plenitude of his divine riches. Unity, inward har- 
mony, the communion of saints ; here already is distinctly set forth the 
essential character of the Church of Christ. But this unity, in which 
all natural and social diversities or oppositions are effaced, is not con- 
ceived as an exterior and visible unity ; it is not founded upon unity of 
government, upon rites or even upon dogmas; it is entirely moral, and 

is born of the communion of the Spirit; it is practically realised and 
maintained by mutual love. Again, the Church is represented as the 
pure and holy bride of the Messiah ; she awaits her spouse, and prepares 
herself to go forth to meet him when he shall descend from heaven upon 
the clouds, to inaugurate the reign of God. This Paulinian notion of the 
Church of Christ, like all the Apostle's theology, is essentially idealist 
and transcendent. Amidst the sorrows and struggles of the present age, 
it is the grouping of the holy and elect; it is the forming of the true 
people Israel, heir of the ancient promises, who are to appear and hold 
themselves in prayer and watchfulness during the short interval of time 
which separates the present from the approaching hour when their King 
shall come.^ 

None the less we must recognise here the great idea which was to 
preside over the evolution of the Christian communities and lead through 
them to the constitution of the Catholic Church. Every religious and 
moral idea tends to translate itself to those outside, and to realise itself, 
in facts. The ideal unity of the Church would tend to become a visible 
reality by unity of government, worship, and discipline. Just as indi- 
vidual believers felt the imperious desire of grouping themselves, and 
uniting with one another, so the various sections of Apostolic Chris- 
tianity, very diverse in origin, local churches dispersed throughout the 
empire, desired to draw near one another, to affirm their solidarity by 
an even closer federation and subordination which constantly became 
more clearly defined.' 

Two necessary conditions were still lacking. It was essential first 
that apostolic Christianity should find a fixed centre around which indi- 
vidual churches might be grouped. Next it was necessary that they 
should come to the point of developing from within themselves a dog- 
matic rule and a principle of authority which would permit this centre 
to subdue all heresies and oppositions. In the very beginning of the 
century the future centre of the Catholic Church became apparent, and 
episcopal authority was constituted. 

* Appendix XI. * Appendix XII. 



The Grccco-Roman Basis of the Catholic Church 

In the very beginning two events occurred to determine the course of 
the history of Christianity: the great success of the PauHnian missions 
in the territories of the empire, and the destruction of Jerusalem and 
the Jewish nation in the year TO. By this event the centre of gravity 
of infant Christianity was forever displaced. From the Orient it passed 
to the Occident, and from Jerusalem to Rome. The primitive Judaeo- 
Christian group declined, the pagano-Christian ever more and more 
gained the ascendant. 

The first representatives of these two groups were Paul of Tarsus 
and James, the brother of Jesus. Far from being superior to them in 
authority, Peter appears relatively effaced between these two champions 
of contrary tendencies, which at that time were rival forces in the 
churches. James was not an apostle; he was something better, he was 
the brother of Christ, and succeeded him by a sort of hereditary right, 
founded on kinship in blood and Davidic descent. Until his death he was 
the true lieutenant, the first vicar of the Messiah, to whom Peter and 
the others were subordinated. If Palestinian Christianity had lived 
and extended itself toward the Orient, it would have formed and trans- 
mitted, coming from this source, a sort of Christian caliphate of another 
nature from that which was later established in Rome.^ 

James, surnamed the Rampart of his people, represented the past — 
Jewish particularism, ritual piety. Paul represented the moral prin- 
ciple of the gospel of Jesus, the religion of inward faith and of liberty. 
The future could not long remain uncertain. The tragic events of the 
year 70, which gave a fatal blow to the dreams of Jewish Messianism, 
put Paul in the right and consecrated the results of his work. 

The struggle had been intense. The letters of Paul to the Christians 

of Galatia, Corinth, and Rome were its fruit and remain its monument. 

^Appendix XIII. 


When Paul returned from his distant journeys he had much difficulty 
in winning from Jerusalem the acceptance of these new children which 
were not her issue, and whose growing numbers gave the Christian Jews 
more fear and embarrassment than pleasure. The partisans of James 
had only one anxiety, to maintain the national privileges of the older 
brothers, the People Israel according to the flesh; while the Apostle to 
the Gentiles, overthrowing all literal arguments, proved the invincible 
incredulity of the mass of Jewish people, and hailed in these new Gentile 
communities the Israel according to the spirit, and the true inheritors 
of the promises made to Abraham/ Paul was stigmatised as a false 
apostle, an apostate, an enemy of Christ, a propagator of iniquity. His 
reply to his adversaries was in no gentle tone. Reading with enlight- 
ened eyes his letter to the Galatians and the second to the Corinthians, 
especially his visit to the apostles, pillars of Jeinisalem, and his quarrel 
with Peter at Antioch, it is easy to see what anachronisms they commit, 
and with what fictions they lull themselves, who represent these first 
Christian communities as organised in the form of the Catholic Church, 
under the official rule of St. Peter.^ None the less does this crisis mark 
the first step along a new way. A venturesome pilot had cut the cables 
which still held the vessel to the native shore, and had turned its prow 
to the open waters of Greek and Roman civilisation. 

It has been observed that Paul appears to have proceeded method- 
ically to the conquest of the empire; he had gone over it, province by 
province, in such manner that the political divisions virtually became 
ecclesiastical circumscriptions: Syria, Cilicia, Galatia, Asia, Macedonia, 
Achaia, Italy, Gaul, Spain. The new Christianity was flowing into 
the imperial organism as into a mould, whose ideal of unity and liierarchi- 
cal forms would survive in the Church, even when the political shell 
should have fallen to pieces under the hammer of the barbarians. 

'Acts xxi. ISflF.; Gal. iU., iv., especially th« allegory of Sarai and Hagar, 1. Cor. 
X. 1-10; Rom. iv., etc. 
* Appendix XIV. 



At the close of the great apostle's life, and on the eve of the catas- 
trophe of the Jewish war, the equilibrium between the Jewish and pagan 
elements in Christianity had been definitely destroyed. The Jewish 
people, having continued in unbelief, seemed condemned by a decree of 
divine justice. Taking refuge beyond the Jordan, the fragments of 
the first Jewish Christian communities vegetated, with no contact with 
the mass of Christianity, and remaining unprogressive while all around 
them was in process of modification, they were to end by appearing as 
a heretic sect under their old name of Nazarenes. As a matter of fact, 
faithful to the spirit and tradition of James and other members of the 
family of Jesus, they alone represented primitive orthodoxy. But thus 
go the things of the world. Orthodoxy is always the doctrine officially 
consecrated by success. 

Recruited especially in that world of proselytes which gravitated to 
the synagogues, the Gentile-Christian body, which was called the " great 
Church," followed a middle path between the theology of Paul, which they 
were incapable of comprehending, and the pretensions and rites of the 
Judaisers, which they could not tolerate. Thus was formed a sort of 
elementary and neutral doctrine, half Greek rational wisdom and half 
Israelitish tradition. Such was the theology of the writers of the transi- 
tion period, who succeeded the apostles and are called the Apostolic 
Fathers. It was the substructure of Catholic orthodoxy. 

In the eyes of Jesus, of Paul and the other apostles, the Old Testa- 
ment had the absolute character of a divine revelation. It was also the 
first and for a long time the only written authority. But while it was 
venerated by them as much as by the Jews, it was necessarily coming 
to be otherwise interpreted. How make the partition between that which 
was conformable to the gospel and that which was contrary to it, between 
the ceremonial part actually abolished and the persistent moral part! 
The allegorical exegesis taught by Philo and already practised by Paul 
came to the aid of the liberty of faith. Of the Old Testament they 
retained these three things: faith in one God, creator of heaven and 


earth, the moral law of the Decalogue, and the Messianic prophecies by 
which they proved that Jesus Christ was the Son of God and the Saviour 
of the world. The rest was interpreted symbolically, as figures of the 
new priesthood, which, under cover of this venerable authority, was 
already being installed in the churches of the second century.^ 

Jerusalem being destroyed, this Grasco-Roman Christianity sought 
a new centre around which to group itself; it had not long to hesitate. 
The great churches of Antioch, Ephesus, and Alexandria found a sort 
of equilibrium, and exercised authority only over the communities of 
their several regions. One city alone was lifted above all the others 
and enjoyed universal importance. Rome was always the eternal and 
the sacred city. Twice she was to inherit the succession of the world. 
The capital of the empire was marked in advance to become the capital 
of Christianity. There was no miracle in this; it was a fact of the 
social order, which so well answered to the historic conditions of the time 
that the real miracle would have been if it had turned out otherwise. 

In the formation of the Catholic Church the action of the Roman 
genius was decisive. It first manifested itself toward the close of the 
first century; and from this moment it never ceased to be potent. In 
the new function it was faithful to its old spirit. It left to others the 
charge and the glory of being active in philosophic science or by the 
ardour of faith. Alexandria might be more learned, Ephesus more mys- 
tical. Its lot was administration, the maintenance of the rule, the incli- 
nation for, and the spirit of, government. In the name of the practical 
interest of unity and good order it intervened everywhere between the 
spontaneity of liberty and individual inspiration. It gave no orders 
as yet, simply fraternal counsels, but the counsels naturally had all the 
weight which could be given by the prestige of Rome, the strength and 
the wealth of its community, and the double legend of St. Peter's chair 
and his martyrdom. 

All this is shown in the letter which the Church of Rome addressed 
to that of Corinth in the last period of Domitian's reign. The letter 

* Appendix XV. 


is collective and anonymous. At the time there was still no more a 
single bishop at Rome than at Corinth. The Roman community says 
nothing in the name of an official primacy or supremacy which it does 
not possess, but speaks in the name of the fraternal solidarity which 
permitted no one of the churches of the time to remain indiflPerent to the 
troubles and sorrows of the others, especially when they solicited help 
or counsel. But it is none the less true that the Roman genius makes 
itself seen, even in this first tentative. 

A part of the Corinthian Church, the younger and the more volatile, 
had uprisen against the " elders," who had long been in charge, and had 
even deposed some of them. Rome, without hesitation, took sides against 
the revolutionists and in favour of the representatives of established 
authority, for the tradition of ecclesiastical power, for the subordination 
of the simple believer to the heads who are the true priests of God, 
Levites, and sacrificers of the new covenant. The unity necessary to 
realise in the Church is that of the empire, and more practically that 
which by the hierarchy and lay discipline reigns in the Roman army, 
the political and military ideal from which Rome thenceforth never 

The Old Testament offered examples and figures which easily became 
rules. The Levitical ceremonial, abolished in the substance of its rites, 
had sacred forms which persisted in the imagination as divine types upon 
which Christian worship ought to be modelled. Christians continued to 
conceive of their worship as a sacrifice, their prayers and the Eucharist 
as offerings, and the communion table as an altar.^ Thus was born 
unto Christianity the idea of a new priesthood instituted by God himself, 
to instruct, sanctify, and save mankind. The oversight of so high a 
mission called for an equal power. Little by little arose the Image of 
a new theocracy, destined to replace the Mosaic theocracy, and to be 

* Clement of Rome, 1. Cor. 40, where for the first time appears the word "laic," 
as opposed to " priest," 44 : 37 n. 

*Ib., 36, 40; 42; Epist. to Heb. x., xvii., 10, etc 


extended over the whole earth. This germ of theocracy is thus found 
from its very origin inherent in the very idea of the Church. It was 
to go on developing, and end by subordinating all the rest to itself. 

About this time appeared for the first time the name Catholic Church, 
which was destined to so great a fortune. It was not yet a general 
expression, designating " the great church," the whole community of 
believers, in opposition to the sects, heresies, particular schools which 
were multiplying on all sides. ^ To make a strongly organised society 
out of this ill-defined mass, two elements were still necessary; a single, 
strong rule of faith, given and everywhere accepted as the expression 
of the apostohc tradition, and an episcopal government, sufficiently well 
established and sufficiently powerful to reduce the whole to unity and 
obedience. The double crisis of Gnosticism and Montanism which broke 
forth between 130 and 150 a. d., and lasted nearly a century, furnished 


The Church and Heresies 
History goes on without repeating itself. There are many essential 
differences between the intestine conflicts which agitated the Church in 
the times of James and Paul, and those which, a century later, were 
stirred up by the Gnostic doctors and the prophets of Montanism. 
Nevertheless, the latter are the successors and logical development of the 
former. The curious antithesis formed by Gnosticism and Montanism 
represents in like fashion the Scylla and Charybdis between which the 
great Church must find a middle passage in order to become the Catholic 

Gnosticism has taken on many forms, engendered many sects and 
systems ; nevertheless, it is easy to discover the fundamental essence and 
inspiration of them all. It was the speculative mind of Greece, warped 
by the influence of Alexandria and Asia Minor, struggling to discover 

'Ignatius, "Ad Smyrn.," 8; "Martyr. Polycarpi," epigraph of the letter from 


high truths behind the letter of ancient or popular myths, to trans- 
form faith into gnosis or knowledge, and positive religions into esoteric 
philosophy. The Gnostic doctors are the first theologian-philosophers 
of Christianity. They claimed to have the key of the mysteries of 
being, of life and of death. Their mysterious theosophy volatilised 
the very substance of ancient beliefs; it changed the narratives of the 
Bible or of the Gospels into symbols of metaphysical ideas, and the fact 
of redemption into a sort of cosmological drama, designed to explain 
and represent the origin and the end of evil, which are the origin and the 
end of being itself, the flux and reflux of things. The Gnostics called 
themselves and doubtless believed themselves Christians, but they were 
another sort of Christians than the multitude. They gave Jesus a 
notable place among the divine aeons which they found under the figure 
of the popular divinities ; they even gave to him a decisive part, the 
part of Saviour, in the liberation of the spirit held captive in the hands 
of matter, then to be restored to the divine pleroma. Christianity thus 
remained the supreme religion, but its value was no longer unique and 
exceptional; it had lost its moral originality, it entered into a vaster 
system as one part of it, as the final link in a chain of earlier revela- 
tions, as the symbolic expression of a higher and more comprehensive 
metaphysic; in short, it vanished in a general philosophy of cosmic 
evolution. In like fashion the old Lutheran orthodoxy was lost in the 
unanticipated exegesis and subtile dialectic of the Hegelian system. 

If to this effort of Graeco-Alexandrine speculation to resolve the 
historic substance of the Christian faith, we add the rites of initiation, 
the theurgic practices, the ceremonies and plastic representations by 
which all these gradually assimilated Christian ceremonial to the mys- 
teries and the ceremonial of paganism, it is impossible to misapprehend 
the direction of the movement. It was the revenge of the Greek mind 
upon the apostolic preaching; it was the Hellenisation of Christianity 
and its absorption into the general philosophy of the time. 

Such was the peril on the left hand of the still plastic Christianity 


of the second century. On the right hand an opposite peril was not less 
threatening. What was the feverish agitation which disturbed first 
the churches of Asia Minor, extending with astonishing rapidity to 
Rome, to Gaul, to Africa, everywhere setting the most fervent members 
of the communities in opposition to the administrators who governed 
then.*^ On one side we find prophets, martyrs, free preachers; on the 
other bishops, elders, church councils. The Montanism which first ap- 
peared on the volcanic soil of Phrygia was to the colourless Christianity 
of the second century the revival of the " prophetic spirit " of the first 
days, with its miraculous gifts, its moral austerity, and feverish expec- 
tation of the Messianic return of Christ in the clouds, and the destruc- 
tion of the world in a final conflagration. Montanus inaugurated the 
last age of the world, the age of the Paraclete. 

Second-century Christianity had not explicitly disowned the hopes 
or the apocalyptic speculations of the age preceding. But it no longer 
expected a near and violent catastrophe to resolve the difficulties against 
which it had daily to struggle. The Church was no longer " the com- 
pany of the saints," it no longer considered itself a stranger and pil- 
grim here below. It had taken domicile and settled down upon the 
earth among all the other pioneers of the time. Such a change could 
not take place without requiring a certain accommodation to pervading 
customs and to the necessities of the time. In the act of expansion the 
body of the Church had become chilled. Its moral temperature had 
fallen several degrees. The piety of the greater number had become 
worldly, and tolerant to excess, morals had become relaxed. Then arose 
new prophets in the old spirit to denounce this tendency to worldliness 
in the Church of God. The outburst of Montanism about the year 140 
or 150 was what in our days are those Anglo-Saxon revivals which, out- 
side of the clergy and the official framework, from time to time arouse 
traditional Protestantism, too ready to slumber amid the comforts of 
the present world. In the disordered transports of Phrygian prophet- 
ism we find the last paroxysms of the ancient fever of Jewish Messianism. 


The Montanists claimed that in them the gifts of the Spirit had 
revived; they predicted the near return of the Christ, and the last judg- 
ment; they consequently proposed to maintain, by a discipline to the 
last degree rigorous, a clean-cut separation and irreconcilable conflict 
between the " family of the saints " and a corrupt world condemned to 
imminent destruction. They represented the most living party in the 
Church, and this explains how, by nature volatile, the most pious Chris- 
tians of the West, the martyrs of Vienne and Lyons, Tertullian of Car- 
thage, should have shown themselves so favourable to a movement of 
revival and reformation which was to bring back the golden age of 

But the times had changed indeed. Already Christian ideas and 
customs had taken another course. The tentative of Montanus and his 
disciples was an anachronism. From the point of view of the Messianic 
hopes, it was the galvanisation of beliefs practically dead, and from the 
point of view of moral discipline, it was the resurrection of an ideal 
which must meet an invincible resistance in the stubborn and mingled 
mass of second-century Christianity. 

When two great opposing forces meet, the resultant is motion in 
a middle direction. It was the same with the Christianity of the second 
century, hesitating and drawn in contrary directions by this conflict be- 
tween Gnosticism and Montanism. If one was a return to the Greek 
spirit, the other was a revival of the Jewish spirit. The Christian body, 
with those who directed it, could neither absolutely repudiate both, since 
its life was drawn from their double substance, nor obey exclusively the 
impulse of one of the two. To live at all, it was forced to receive, and 
mingle in its own bosom, such elements as were capable of mingling and 
amalgamating, while rejecting such as seemed to be excessive and an- 

It is difficult, but necessary, to picture to one's self the intellectual 
and moral spectacle off^ered by Christianity between the years 150 and 
180, under the reigns of Antoninus and Marcus Aurelius. The most 


diverse currents of thought and devotion came in contact and mingled 
in all possible ways. In the great polemics of the age the forms of the 
age to follow were decided. In the vat into which the whole vintage had 
been gathered a fennentaiion, an intense ebullition, was going on, the 
rapid decomposition of the old elements and the slow recomposition of 
a new system ; it was the crucible whence emerged the Catholic theory 
of the Church. This theory so little came down ready-made from 
heaven by a supernatural road, that the battle of which it was the issue 
remained long uncertain. It is clear that this form of Christianity was 
the only one even possible in the face of dangerous heresies. Many 
different solutions were concurrently sketched out, according to locality, 
to respond to the conservative instinct of the Christian conscience. 
Alexandria, for example, triumphed over heresy by a learned exegesis 
of the sacred texts, and upon this exegesis constituted a form of Chris- 
tianity which is not without analogy with Protestantism. What does 
the school of Pantaenus, of Clement, and of Origen more closely resemble 
than a little Protestant university? The Churches of Asia Minor built 
up their tradition on another basis. They relied upon their customs, 
upon the sayings of the Elders and the Apostle John, to resist as 
well the objurgations of Rome as the assaults of the Gnostics and the 
diatribes of the Montanists. It was a sort of Anglicanism, or better 
perhaps, of Gallicism before the Council of Trent. At Antioch and 
in Syria the letters of Ignatius offer a mystical theory of the Episco- 
pate which is essentially Oriental, and radically different from the 
Roman theory, which was destined to triumph. 

But in this crisis, the outcome of which was to be a radical trans- 
formation of primitive Christianity, in this work of general salvation, 
it was Rome which, by its political importance as by its genius for 
government, was destined to take the direction, and impose upon the 
others the necessary solution. Alexandria was half Gnostic, and yielded 
to heresy while trying to refute it by a method of her own. Asia Minor, 
Gaul, Carthage, were in secret sympathy with Montanism. Rome clearly 


saw the double peril ; it faced both sides at once, defined the vacillating 
orthodoxy, and at the outset proposed practical solutions most apt to 
make it everywhere triumphant. The Catholic theory of the Church 
was a Roman work. 

Without the least concern about philosophical logic or learned exe- 
gesis, treating religious questions like political matters, solely intent 
upon maintaining the visible unity of the body of the Church and 
eliminating from it all elements of dissidence and anarchy, she invented, 
or rather applied, in the religious and moral order, the juridic author- 
ity of prescription so well developed by Tertullian. 

Instead of encouraging discussion with heretics, Rome suppressed it ; 
providing for believers a way to oppose to all objections a declinatory, 
a sort of previous question, which did more than refute heresy, which 
executed it before it had opened its mouth.^ This method was a con- 
fession of apostolic faith, a popular and universal symbol, which, be- 
coming a law of the Church, excluded from its midst, without dispute, 
all those who refused to repeat it. It was the " Rule of Faith." The 
Church of Rome easily obtained it by adding a few clear and well-defined 
propositions to the Jbrmula of baptism recited by the neophytes in 
primitive times. This is how, against Gnostic dualism, she maintained 
the identity of the supreme God, creator of the world; and against 
Docetism, the reality of the body of Jesus, and of his sufferings and 
death. These are the origins of the symbol called, " Of the Apostles," the 
first and venerable monument of Catholic orthodoxy. It saw the light 
in its earliest form in the church of Rome, between the years 150 and 
160, and as it offered a means of defence extremely easy and sure, it 
passed rapidly from the Roman church to the other churches. 

The victory over Montanism was slower and more difficult, but it 

also had still more decisive practical consequences. In the end the 

' Tertullian, the entire treatise " De Praescriptione Hasreticorum," especially chap. 
■20, 21. Thus is the question of truth decided for the Church. It is not by research 
into intellectual or moral proof, always uncertain, but by an exterior and legal 
criterion which makes aU discussion useless. 


bishops got the better of the prophets, and bent to their own disciplinary 
authority and oversight all inspirations and miraculous gifts, however 
striking they might appear to be. This was the capital point. From 
that time the bishops appeared as the highest organs of the Holy Spirit, 
whose action was directed into clearly defined channels, and confined 
within the hierarchy. The ecclesiastical order and the religious order 
became so closely identified that it would never again be possible to set 
one against the other, or to attempt to reform the Church in the name 
of the Spirit, since the Church judges, without appeal, of the truth or 
the properties of the Spirit. 

By the same act, the conceptions of the Catholic Church, and of the 
Kingdom of God, which in the beginning were a whole heaven apart, 
were blended and identified.^ The apocalyptic hope lost its object. The 
reign of God was to come in the triumphs and progressive conquests of 
the Church over the world. Thenceforth the attributes of the one passed 
over to the other. The visible body of the Church clothed itself in the 
ideal perfections of the kingdom of God; holiness, unity, catholicity, 
infallibility, eternity. That which in the faith of Jesus and the apostles 
was transcendent, became a visible and historic society. The ideal and 
the real were confused. God wills to rule the world through the Church, 
and the Church reigns through its hierarchy. In his Church, and by his 
ministers, God gives his oracles, distributes his graces, rewards, absolves, 
or punishes. Outside the Church is no salvation, because apart from 
her Christianity is a pure abstraction, less than nothing. For this 
Church there could be no question of weakness or erring, since beyond 
the promises of indefectibility, which were made to it by its founder, it 
is nothing other than the Word of God made flesh, the very truth itself 
rendered visible and permanent on earth in a historic institution.^ 

Thus at last, but not before the third century, we meet the Catholic 
\ dogma of the Church. It comes forth from the womb of history by a 

' See the conception of the«City of God in " Augustine." 
' Appendix XVI. 


long and painful birth process, and is to be naturally explained, like 
every other historic phenomenon, by the inner logic of ideas and things, 
the circumstances of the time, the genius or the ambition of men. Rome 
had laid its first foundation by promulgating the Rule of Faith against 
heresy ; she completed the edifice by her theory of Apostolic Succession, 
which became the foundation of the authority of the bishops. These 
two new theories constitute the very essence of the Catholic conception 
of the Church. It remains to examine both more closely/ 



Historic and Supernatural View 

In a general sense, tradition is the bond of the generations of the human 
race, which by this succession form an organic sequence, transmitting 
to the last comers the heritage of those who preceded them. It is the 
light of time, the woof of history, the permanent consciousness of 

Every society engenders traditions which become the treasure house 
of its memories and customs, its spiritual acquisitions, its laws, all the 
fruit of its life. From this private treasury it continually draws lessons 
and examples, inspirations and virtues, an experience and a practical 
sagacity which nothing else can supply. This is the condition of all 
progress, and the law of life. That which is without a past has no 

If we compare tradition to a stream flowing down the ages, it is 

1 Appendix XVII. 


clear that that happens to it which happens to all rivers; as it travels 
farther from its source its increasing waters become imbued with the 
washings of the various earth strata through which they pass. To drop 
the figure, it is a historic law that every tradition not fixed in writing 
changes in process of development; the more distant it is from the 
events, so much the more their image and memory becomes altered and 
transformed, and the final form of the tradition differs from the 
original character which was its starting point, unless a vigilant and 
severe criticism has unceasingly sifted it, to free it from intermingling 
legends and superstitions, and maintain it in primitive purity. The 
duty of criticism is thus as imprescriptible as the rights of tradition. 

Without the first, the second would remain fruitless, or rather, would 
become an invincible obstacle to progress. It would be the enslavement 
of progress. It would be the subjection of the present and the future 
to the past, the stagnation and ultimate decay of the human mind. 

In the Renascence the alliance of stimulating criticism with con- 
serving tradition wrought victory in the sciences, in philosophy, 
politics, and art, and since that time it has shown itself admirably fruit- 
ful. Men have understood that the heritage of the ages, however 
precious, cannot reasonably be accepted except with reserves. Tradi- 
tion hands down everything, good and bad, error and truth, excellent 
habits and barbarous customs, generous sentiments and detestable insti- 
tutions. We thus understand Pascal's saying : " Humanity is a man 
who is to live forever, and learn without ceasing." From this point of 
view the moderns are the ancients, since they have a longer experience 
behind them. The ancients, on the contrary, are the younger, they are 
the children, because they came in the early ages of the world. How 
should the judgment of ripe age be subordinated to the first reasonings 
of youth.? 

This rational view of tradition is not the Catholic view; it is dis- 
tinguished from it by one essential characteristic. In the Church tradi- 
tion belongs to the supernatural order. The truth transmitted and the 


act of transmission are alike clothed with divine character. The tradi- 
tion of the Church becomes the sovereign rule of truth, and by that fact 
is raised above criticism and discussion. 

The tradition of the Church is often opposed to Holy Scripture, 
especially since the controversies evoked by Protestantism. From the 
historic point of view, this opposition is absolutely without justification, 
since the Scriptures are simply the earliest form of the tradition, fixed 
in books, and thus shielded from alteration and neglect. If the question 
is What was primitive Christianity? it is evident that the apostolic writ- 
ings are the best source of information at the historian's disposal, since 
they are the most ancient and the most faithful testimony which we pos- 
sess. What might be told of the life of Christ after the close of the 
second century, outside of these written events, is almost worthless. 

But from the dogmatic point of view the question is reversed, at •>Z^ 
least in Catholicism. The Church has definitely decided what must be [ 
held as sacred scriptures, and what must be looked upon as apocrypha. 
The traditional faith of the Church alone gives legitimate interpreta- 
tion of the sacred texts. The supreme judge of controversy is therefore 
not Scripture, but tradition. The first is subordinate to the second. 
There is in the Church a latent tradition of truth, of which the biblical 
writings are merely a first emanation, and from which they cannot be 
separated without losing all guaranty and value. The Council of Trent 
placed in the same rank, as issuing from the same source of inspiration, 
apostolic Scriptures and tradition, beliefs and customs received by oral 
transmission from the apostles to our time ; and that none may, as do the 
Protestants, set these authorities over against one another, and criticise 
tradition in the name of the Bible, it pronounced anathema those who 
warp the Scriptures according to their own sense, and in the last resort 
it gave the Church alone the right to judge of the texts, and the inter- 
pretation to be put upon them.^ 

The Church is not merely assisted by the Holy Spirit in guarding 
the ancient writing; it is equally her mission to explain, complete, and 

^Appendix XVIII. 


enrich this primitive deposit in the progressive measure which new times 
may require. Tradition is never exhausted and never fixed. It is an ever 
creative inspiration. As the permanent incarnation of the Word of 
God, the Church pronounces this Word sovereign whenever it speaks by 
the mouth of those who have the right to speak in her name. Formerly 
she had bishops and councils for her organs. To-day she is concentrated 
in the papacy. But it is still tradition which gives authority to the 
Pope, as formerly to the Councils. In tradition infallibility properly 

How was so extraordinary a theory formed? At what precise date 
did it appear? What causes produced it and made it victorious? 
Through what forms and what stages did it pass, from Irenaeus and 
Tertullian, who laid its first foundations, to the point of perfection and 
concentration to which it has attained in our day ? As many chapters as 
questions, but history to-day throws full light upon them all, leaving no 
smallest place for miracle or mystery. 


The Authority of Tradition in Judaism 

All religious traditions, at least those of antiquity, appear invested 
with a sacred character. They were incarnated in priests, who, in the 
name of the Divinity itself, taught other men the rites and dogmas ac- 
cording to which it would be adored. Thence the anxious scruples and 
fastidious care which were given to the recitation of formulas and the 
performance of acts of worship. A tradition of this nature taking form 
in the Christian Church of the early centuries, while the habits of ancient 
cults weighed heavy upon it, is not, therefore, a unique nor even an ex- 
ceptional phenomenon. It may be found repeated all along the history 
of religions, following a very clear psychological and social law. 
Nothing is more in the nature of things, and it would have been truly a 
miracle had it been otherwise. 


A striking parallel, not to cite others, offers itself in the history of 
Judaism. The Mosaic law, built up and definitively put into form in the 
time of Ezra, appeared, notwithstanding its minute prescriptions, in- 
capable of sufficing for itself. Almost immediately an oral tradition, to 
accompany and protect the sacred text, was drawn from the teaching 
of the rabbins, as Catholic tradition was later born of that of the 
bishops and Fathers of the Church. The Pharisees became the jealous 
guardians of this rabbinic tradition, and to give it the more cogent 
authority it was dated back to Moses, precisely as the bishop and councils 
traced the traditions of which they were the repositories to Christ and 
the apostles. 

Little by little the legend became accredited, that after having given 
the written law on descending from Mount Sinai, Moses farther trans- 
mitted orally to the elders many precepts and commentaries ; they in 
turn bequeathed them to the prophets, and from the prophets they came 
down without interruption to the men of the Great Synagogue. Thus 
the Scribes, as Jesus said, were truly, according to their tradition, sitting 
in Moses' seat, as the bishops later in that of Christ. 

From that time it became as sinful to contradict this tradition as to 
violate the law itself. In Pharisaism, as later in Catholicism, the 
Scriptures came under subjection to oral tradition, for the reason that 
the master of the interpretation is always the true master of the text. 

Here again, as in the history of Catholicism, the authority of tradi- 
tion rendered all reform impossible. All truly inspired souls, all re- 
formers and prophets, fell and were broken against this sacred barrier. 
This was the fate of John the Baptist, it was the fate of Christ him- 
self. Between him and the Pharisees began at the very outset a contest 
concerning the authority of " the tradition of the elders." One needs 
only to read the Sermon on the Mount, and the discussions about the 
Sabbath, fasting, unclean food. Jesus accused them of making void the 
law of God himself by the commandments of men, and of binding weak 
consciences with heavy chains. They in return could not forgive him 


the freedom of his inspiration, the boldness of his conduct, and his dis- 
courses, which tended to nothing less than the downfall of the entire 
edifice of Jewish piety. It was the eternal struggle, soon to be repeated 
in the very Church of Christ, between traditional formalism and the 
inspirations of conscience. 

Is it impossible to establish a more direct line of descent between 
Pharisaic tradition and the origin of the Catholic idea? The first 
Christians, coming out from Judaism, had been brought up on the prin- 
ciples of Pharisaism. What is there surprising in their retaining its 
mental habits, and especially that respect for tradition which was still all- 
powerful in the Semitic East? What did James, the brother of the Lord, 
and the apostles in Jerusalem, but maintain, against Paul and his dis- 
quieting inspiration, the scrupulous care of the " oral tradition " con- 
cerning the words and example of Christ? Why were they called the 
" pillars " of the Messianic Church, if not because they were the up- 
holders of its tradition? Does not the entire second Christian century, 
whether in the person of those who were already called " the Catholics," 
or of the Ebionites, or of the Gnostics, make common appeal to the 
tradition of the elders, as to a decisive authority? The Church had in- 
herited and was keeping alive the habits of the synagogue.* 


The Earliest Christian Tradition 

We must not form our ideas of early Christianity from its organisation 

and its dogmatic in the time of Constantine, still less from those of 

modern times. Between the first age and those which followed there is 

all the difference between matter in a state of fusion and matter grown 

cold and solid. 

'"Horn.," Clement, letter of Peter to James, first lines; " Recognitiones," I. 21, 
25; II. 45, X. 42. See, also. Acts xv., xxi. 20 ff.; Gal. ii. 1-15. It will be remembered 
that Basilides and Valentinian also took advantage of a special apostolic tradition. 


Unity of association arose spontaneously from unity of hearts and 
the common possession of an ardent hope. The profession of faith of the 
first Christians was short : " Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah," and their 
watchword shorter still : Maranatha, " The Lord is at hand." With- 
out exception they all lived in the belief, at that time so widespread, that 
the last days of the existing order were at hand ; and this belief, doing 
away with the idea of a long future, at the same time dispensed them 
from all care and trouble with a view to founding a permanent establish- 
ment here below.^ 

It is impossible to imagine a greater delusion than that of the 
Roman Catholic Church, when it seeks to discover its own image in this 
primitive society. We are here in the age of apocalyptic Messianism, 
of free inspiration, of the miraculous gifts of the Spirit.^ 

Jesus wrote nothing nor caused anything to be written. He never 
dreamed of giving a second volume to the Bible of the Jews, still less of 
creating another sacerdotal order and new ceremonies. He left neither 
dogmas nor rules other than the maxims of the Sermon on the Mount, 
or the teachings of his parables and the promise of his return. He 
desired to have only apostles, that is, " messengers," to preach every- 
where that the time was fulfilled and the Kingdom of Heaven was about 
to appear. That a new rehgion resulted from the preaching cf this 
gospel was because, under the Messianic form, which it at first took on, 
there was the contagious sentiment of an entirely new relation, a filial 
relation to God, of a new revelation of God in the heart of man, as a 
divine leaven, an all-powerful grace, which should regenerate and fecun- 
date the entire life of humanity. 

Thus the Master confided his gospel to the free and living preaching 
of his disciples and the assistance of the Spirit. 

' Matt. iii. 2; Mark i. 15, ix. 1., and paral. Matt. xxiv. 33, 34; Acts ii.l7; 1 Cor. vii. 
29; Gal. i, 4; 2 Tim. iii. 1 Pet. i. 5; Jas. v. 3, 8, 9; Rev. i. 1, xxii. 20; Heb. x. 25, 37; 
1 Jno. ii. 18, " Teaching of the Apostles," cxvi. 

' See the description of the inner life of the first Christian community, 1 Cor. xii., 


But as they were repeated these discourses took on permanent forms. 
Thus spontaneously sprang into life the first Christian tradition, like 
all historic traditions: it was formed naturally from the stories of the 
life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, which the apostles must have told 
in order to show by them the fulfilment of the prophecies, and persuade 
all men that this was indeed the Messiah of the people/ In Christian 
circles the tradition grew daily richer by what each had learned and re- 
lated of the " deeds and words " of the Master, as in the second century 
said Papias, bishop of Hierapolis, so curious and avid for these words 
of the ancient witnesses. Thus, at the end of twenty or thirty years, 
we find the gospel message and the substance of Christian preaching com- 
monly designated by the terms " tradition," " pattern of teaching," the 
" good deposit " which must be treasured up and guarded with care.^ 

The mirage and illusion began when people began to imagine that 
this initial tradition was the deliberate and premeditated work of an 
official authority, and that the apostles, in college assembled, enclosed 
it in rules and formulas. This was entirely to misapprehend the true 
office of the apostles, and the character of that age, in which all Chris- 
tians, baptised with spirit and fire, enjoyed the sacred and fruitful 
gift of inspiration. 

Without any doubt, on their own testimony, the Twelve began to 
lay the foundations of this tradition, which for this reason may be 
called " apostolic," but they were not alone in this work. All those who 
knew or believed that they knew something about Christ, all those who 
had received or believed that they had received some heavenly revelation, 
brought their gift to the common treasury. Little by little it all began 
to be epitomised and organised, yet without taking on a single and 
permanent form. Born of memory and faith the tree grew naturally, 

*Acts. ii. 29-36, viii. 26-35, x. 34-43; 1 Cor. xv. 1-3. 

^The Gospel was currently called a "Word," the "Word of God," the " Received 
Word," TrapctSoffts, tittos StSax^s, TrapaSiJ/fi?. Luke i. 2; 1 Cor. X. 23, xi. 2, XV. 1-3; 
2 Tim. i. 14; Rom. vi., 17; 2 Thess. ii. 15, etc. 


and day by day adorned itself with new flowers, or even with new 

To become convinced of this absence of all fundamental or official 
decision, to grasp the movement and life of this first tradition, its pro- 
gressive enrichment and incessant variability, it will suffice to follow it 
in its two constituent parts, the acts and teachings, that is, the biog- 
raphy of Jesus, and the interpretation which was put upon it. In both 
parts there is a common stock, a harmony of essential data and large 
outlines. But as we advance, what a variety of concurrent forms! 
What inconsistencies ! What polemics and conflicts ! 

The " sayings of the Lord " became, side by side with the Old Testa- 
ment, the ultimate norm to which to refer for resolution all questions 
that might arise in the life of the earliest communities; they were 
therefore carefully gathered up, repeated, and memorised.^ It appears 
highly probable that the first Gospel writings were collections of these 
** sayings " or logiay which the second Christian generation must espe- 
cially have felt the need of collecting and putting in definite form.^ In 
any case it is certain that such were still cited from memory at the be- 
ginning of the second century.* 

Half a century after the death of Jesus the tradition of the events 
of his life, while already firm in its large outlines, was far from being 
identical in all regions where Christianity prevailed. Here it was very 
rich, and there very meagre. Thus is explained the great variety in the 
first written narratives, with which Luke was not satisfied, and which he 

'The latest of these branches, one of the most beautiful and fruitful, is repre- 
sented by the Fourth Gospel. 

*1 Thess. iv, 15, v. 2; 1 Cor. vii. 10, 12, ix. 14; Rom. xii, 14, 20, etc. 

8 It is now generally admitted that the Apostle Matthew composed an Aramaean 
collection of this kind. In any case, Luke and the author of the First Gospel had 
such collections at their disposal. Luke i. 1-4; Prologue, and the testimony of Papias 
in Eusebius, H. E. III. 39. 

*This is the case with Clement of Rome, with Papias, Ignatius, and Polycarp, 
who, though they were acquainted with this or that written gospel, preferred to draw 
from oral tradition. As much may be said of the authors of the " Teaching of the 



undertook to correct, complete, and harmonise in a new account.^ These 
were private and entirely occasional works, which naturally reflected the 
environment in which they were produced. 

Papias, following a still more ancient witness, tells us that Mark, 
the interpreter of Peter, put into writing the acts and sayings of Jesus, 
according to his memory of the preaching of that apostle; but as the 
teaching of the latter was determined by the occasion, Mark could not 
draw from it a connected and complete whole, and he deserves no blame, 
since he simply undertook to relate, without falsehood or alteration, the 
things which he had thus learned.^ Luke, with other resources, did no 
otherwise. This is how, in the New Testament canon, we have not a 
single Gospel, as would have been the case had the apostles ordered the 
preparation of one, but four narratives sufficiently different for us to be 
incapable at the present day of reconciling their data and resolving 
their inconsistencies. Where do we find the official authority of the 
apostles intervening to direct this work of writing which was to have 
such importance for the destinies of the Christian religion? It was 
with the early Christian literature as with all popular literature, echoes 
of a free and living tradition ; it was born of the circumstances and the 
needs of each day."^ 

Until about the year 130, the time of Polycarp and Papias, the divers 
Gospel writings were still encompassed by the oral tradition from which 
they had issued, and by which they continued to be nourished. But by 
the time of Justin Martyr they had finally absorbed all the substance of 
tradition, and had taken its place in Christian confidence. One thing is 
worthy of remark: all that it has been possible to glean outside of our 
four Gospels about the life of Jesus in the subsequent tradition of the 
Church is of very little, not to say of no, value. It is not that tradition 
was sterile, on the contrary it was prodigiously fecund, as the Apocry- 
phal Gospels bear witness, but it brought forth only legends. 

' See the prologue of Luke's Gospel, i. 1-4. 

'Euseb, H. E, III. 39. Testimony of John the Elder, preserved by PapiM. 

^This is even more true of the apostolic letters than of the Gospels. 


Christian tradition is therefore not of divine institution. It was 
born and developed from beginning to end after the manner of all 
historic traditions, which grow richer as they grow older, but bring with 
them so much the less warrant in proportion as they travel farther from 
the time and place of their origin. 

Catholic theology was right in maintaining against the old Prot- 
estant theology that Scripture is born of tradition ; but it was wrong in 
concluding therefrom that the later tradition may have as much weight 
as the writings of the New Testament, or more ; since the latter represent 
a more ancient, and by so much more faithful, tradition. The truth is 
that all tradition calls for historic criticism and its methods of verifica- 
tion. There is no other way of discerning how much it is worth. 

If such is the variability of tradition as to the events of the life of 
Jesus, how much greater must it be as to the forms of his preaching and 
teaching ! In that age of general inspiration, diversities of gifts and of 
environment must have been more acutely felt in this field than else- 
where. Thus we see, even in the apostolic generation, the appearance 
of very different types of doctrine and preaching. When the Apostle 
Paul said " my gospel," opposing it to that of his adversaries, he had 
a very vivid conception of all that was specific, new, and original, in his 
doctrine. He was not unaware, as his letter to the Christians of Galatia 
shows, that his doctrine and mission were an occasion of scandal, and 
a cause of violent polemic and hatred to the Pharisaso-Christians of 
Jerusalem. James, the Lord's brother, did not preach after that 
fashion. Though they and Paul alike confessed Jesus " the Messiah of 
glory," they hardly agreed as to the meaning of his death, the nature of 
his person, or in their notions of faith and redemption. In what con- 
cerned the law of Moses and the national customs of Israel, the differ- 
ence in their attitude and utterances reached open conflict, the latter 
declaring them definitively abrogated, the former preserving them.* 

'Testimony of Paul in Gal. !., ii.; testimony as to James in Gal. ii. 1, 2; Acts xv. 
1, 2, 13 flF, xxi. 18 flF; see all the second part of the 2d Epistle to the Corinthians, and 


Between these extremes, how many intermediate types formed the 
transition and filled the wide space! It suffices to recall the names of 
Apollos, Peter, Philip, John, who represent very distinct tendencies.^ 
And are not these varieties found in the New Testament, where we find 
b}' turns writings so different in method and thought as the Epistle to 
the Romans and that of James, the Gospels of Mark and of John, the 
Epistle to the Hebrews and the Apocalypse? That there was unity of 
religious faith, of the first inspiration, we admit, indeed, but what a 
wealth and what a diversity of theologies ! Does it not clearly appear 
that no rule, no official credo yet existed, and that no exterior authority 
had risen to cramp or stifle the spontaneity of individual inspiration? 

A curious little book recently discovered, which dates from the first 
third of the second century, but represents a condition of things still 
more ancient, brings a yet more significant testimony. " The Teach- 
ings of the Lord according to the Twelve Apostles " contains, brought 
together in a few pages, the Catechism, the Liturgy, and the ecclesi- 
astical discipline which regulated the teaching, the worship, and the 
inner life of the communities of Palestine or of Syria under the reign 
of Trajan, at latest. The gospel is here summed up under the figure 
of two roads, one of which leads to life and the other to death, with 
a few maxims borrowed from the Sermon on the Mount. There are 
only two rites : Baptism and the Eucharist, and the prayers which accom- 
pany them, though of a fine m3'sticism, seem entirely to ignore the teach- 
ings of Paul. Finally, the edification of the communities is still in great 
part effected by itinerant prophets and evangelists, in presence of whom 
is felt the necessity of recommending that the former should be placed 
in care of deacons and bishops regularly elected and settled. Com- 
paring this venerable document with the " Apostohc Constitutions " of 

Phil. i. 15-18, iii. 2, etc. Hegesippus in Eusebius upon the Pharisaeo-Christians, bitter 
enemies of Paul. To measure the consequences and the notoriety of these early 
contentions one must read the Clementine Homilies. 

•See what Paul says in the first three chapters of his first letter to the Corin- 
thians, and especially 1 Cor. iii. 10-15. 


the fourth century, it is easy to measure the progress made by the 
Church. Nevertheless, it is a first landmark set up, a first attempt to 
give legal and official form to apostolic tradition, and it brings back a 
past in the act of disappearing and preparing the way for a new future. 
The road is open. Henceforth ecclesiastical authority will take pre- 
cedence of inspiration. The principle of future legislation is laid down. 
It is the doctrine, the tradition of the apostles. 

True, the tradition was still rudimentary and floating. We shall 
see how, by the polemics of the second century, it reached definiteness and 


The Baptismal Formula and the Apostolic Symbol 

It was inevitable that the dogmatic crystallisation of this still fluid 
tradition should take place, as by degrees it did take place, around the 
point of least resistance in the new cult. That point was baptism, with 
the profession of faith which from the beginning had been associated 
with it. 

Not that we have not here, as elsewhere, an evolution of ideas and 
forms. But the development is in a straight line, and can be followed 
with something like certainty. Baptism was in the beginning a literal 
bath, an entire immersion. By the close of the first century a triple 
aspersion of water upon the head might suffice at need.^ Originally it 
included the idea of the purification of the soul by repentance and the 
forgiveness of sins. To this idea was added, in the second century, 
that of a sacrament of initiation and illumination analogous to those of 
the pagan mysteries.^ Finally, as we shall see, innovations were made 

' "Teaching of the Apostles," vii: 'EhvS^ atupbrepa ix-fj exrjs (running water or warna 
water) eKxeov eh ttjv Ke<pa\T}v rpU 'v5wp ets tvofia warpbi Kal viov Kal aylov irveii/jxtroi. 

^ With regard to the relation between the Christian sacraments, baptism and the 
Eucharist, and the pagan mysteries, see the work of Gustav Anrich, " Grosskirche, 
Gnosticismus, und Mysterienwesen," 1894. Justin Martyr calls baptism <f>d)Ti<Tfioi, 
a word which appears to have been borrowed from the language of the mysteries, 1 
" Apol.," 65. See, however, Heb. x. 22-32; Eph. i. 17-19. 


in the invocation pronounced over the head of the persons baptised. 

Change is everywhere, fixity nowhere. 

Was the institution of baptism the act of Jesus himself? In the 
present condition of the text it is impossible to prove it. The command 
of Matthew xxviii. 19, which seems to attribute it to him, is not only 
posthumous, but even appears late in the tradition of the Apostolic 
Church. No other Gospel contains it.^ 

If Jesus had left so formal a commandment to his apostles, could 
Paul have written to the Corinthians that Christ had sent him, not to 
baptise, but to preach the Gospel, and could he have thanked Grod that 
he had baptised with his own hands only three or four persons in 
Corinth? Would he not rather have had reason to reproach himself 
for having failed in an express command of Christ? 

Baptism with water dates back to John the Baptist. Jesus con- 
sidered this rite, which was preparatory to the Messianic kingdom, as 
willed by God,^ but anterior to the new covenant and foreign to it. The 
disciples at first practised it in the same spirit as the Forerunner, hav- 
ing in view, as he had, the approaching advent of the triumphant Mes- 

The Messiah's baptism was to be of a diff^erent nature. It was 
the " baptism with the Spirit and with fire," which in John's discourses 
was distinctly opposed to the baptism with water.^ It is the only baptism 
with which Paul is concerned. In the beginning the two were very 
clearly distinguished, as may be seen in the book of the " Acts of the 
Apostles," where the effusion of the Spirit sometimes precedes and some- 
times follows the baptism with water, with no necessary connection 
between them.* But as by degrees the Church and the Kingdom of 
Heaven became identified, entrance into the latter came to be confounded 
with entrance into the former; the bath of purification in view of the 
Kingdom became confused with the effusion of the Spirit, the warrant 

'Appendix XIX. ^Matt. iu, 11, and paraL; Acts i. 5. 

*Mark xi. 30, and paraL < Appendix XX. 


and principle of eternal life, and the sign took the place of the thing 
signified. By this swift descent, second-century Christianity very soon 
reached the superstitious idea of the O'pus operatum.^ 

From the accordant testimony of Paul's letters and the Acts of 
the Apostles, it appears evident that, originally, baptism was admin- 
istered simply " in the name of Christ." ^ The new convert who received 
it in this form confessed his faith in the Messiahship of Jesus. And 
as the Christ whom above all Paul preached was the Christ who died 
and rose again, this apostle saw in baptism a representation in action 
of the intimate union of the believer with Christ in his death and resur- 
rection, so that the baptised person seemed to be buried with Christ 
and to rise with him to the life of the Spirit. Later, especially in the 
pagan world, this elementary form appeared to be no longer sufficient. 
Catechumens of pagan origin needed to be converted to the true and 
living God, the Father of Jesus Christ, and to be initiated into the 
regenerating virtues of the Holy Spirit, as well as into the redemption 
wrought by the Son of God, the Saviour of all men. In the churches 
founded by Paul, such was the threefold object of the instruction given 
to catechumens, and such the faith which they professed at their bap- 
tism, summed up in the formula which has become traditional : Into the 
name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. 

By degrees the terms of this formula were developed until finally 
it became the well-known symbol called " Of the Apostles." But this 
was a work of time and effort. 

Toward the middle of the second century we find a rule of faith 
which the converts doubtless recited on the occasion of their baptism 
and admission to the Church. It was thus worded: 

/ believe in God, Father Almighty, and Christ Jesus his Son, our 

Lord, born of the Holy Spirit and of Mary, virgin, Crucified under 

Pontius Pilate and buried, on the third day rose from the dead, Ascended 

into heaven, Sitteth on the right hand of the Father, From whence he 

^ Appendix XXI. « Appendix XXII. 

coTtieth to judge quick and dead. And in Holy Spirit, Holy Church, 
Remission of sins. Resurrection of the flesh.^ 

It is not yet precisely the Apostolic Symbol; several articles are 
incomplete, and others are wanting. But it is the first form of that 
symbol, and it very evidently owes its structure to the threefold baptismal 
formula. To each of its terms, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, have been 
added explanations and more complete determinations, to clarify the 
faith of catechumens. 

What were the causes of this development? They may be traced 
back to two: on one hand the progress of catechetical instruction, the 
necessity of giving to converts from paganism a more detailed and posi- 
tive knowledge of what was considered the essence of the Christian faith ; 
on the other, and especially, carefulness to avoid Gnostic heresies and 
build up a protecting barrier between such and the universal Church. 
It is not by an unimportant coincidence that this rule of faith was put 
in force precisely in those years between 135 and 150, when Valentinian 
and Marcion were agitating this great Church with their preaching, 
and Justin Martyr was opposing them with the most violent polemics. 
In this same period, as we shall show in the following chapter, the 
monarchical Episcopate appeared at Rome, with Pius I. Everything 
there tends to show that in the last years of the age of Hadrian and 
Antoninus the Pious, the community in Rome was passing through a 
profound crisis, whence emerged clearly defined doctrine, concentrated 
ecclesiastical authority, and established discipline.^ 

That which, with singular energy and order, was going on in Rome, 
was also taking place in all the great churches of the time. It was 
everywhere necessary to instruct the simple, to provide them with a 
criterion of the true faith which should be easy to remember, and to 
erect a barrier against the confusion and absolutism of Gnostic specula- 
tion or the speculations of Montanism. Everywhere, therefore, rules of 
faith were being roughly blocked out, which, being naturally built upon 
» Appendix XXIII. " Appendix XXIV. 

the threefold baptismal formula, strongly resembled one another without 
coinciding in details. Traces of more or less developed professions of faith 
may be found in the later writings of the New Testament, especially in 
the Epistles called Pastoral, and in the writings of Clement of Rome, 
Poly carp, Ignatius, Hermas, Justin Martyr/ Sometimes they are shorter, 
sometimes more explicit. One article is strongly supported because its 
existence had been threatened; another is passed by in silence because 
it has in no sense been a subject of dispute. In short, down to about 
the year 150, the symbol recited by catechumens varied* according to time 
and place; it was in process of elaboration and development. In the 
end it attained its most clearly defined form in Rome, and from thence 
it was carried into the East, and especially into the West. It took pos- 
session of the Churches of Africa and of Gaul, where Tertullian and 
Irenseus found it strongly intrenched under the name and with the 
authority of " Doctrine of the Apostles," and " Rule of the Truth." 

Genesis of the Catholic Theory of Tradition 

The notion of tradition implies three terms; a point of departure, a 

point of arrival, and the link that connects them. In the Catholic 

theory the point of departure is God himself; the point of arrival the 

Church militant; the connecting link, the apostles and the legitimate 

line of their successors. The intermediate link is therefore the essential 

term. On one side the apostles take hold on Christ and so on God; 

on the other they make part of the Church and represent it. It is by 

their means that revelation, given from heaven and coming to men, 

remains divine to the very end, without perversion or corruption. Apos- 

tolicity must therefore be the inevitable and essential mark of Catholic 

M Tim. ii. 5, iii. 16, and especially vi. 12, 13; 2 Tim. i. 14, ii. 2; Titus i. 9; Clem. 
Rom., 1 Cor. 58; Ignatius, " Epist. ad Trail.," 9; " Ad Smyrn," 1; " Ad Eph.," 7; " Ad 
Magn.," 11; Polycarp, " Ad Philipp.," 2; Justin Martyr," 1 Ap.," 61; "Dial.," 30. 

tradition. Here we touch the very corner stone of the infallibility of 
the Church. 

This dogmatic theory of tradition presents itself for the first time 
defined and settled in the form of an infallible and sovereign law, in the 
writings of Irenasus, Tertullian, and Hyppolitus. These writers were led 
to formulate it by their polemic against Gnosticism and other heresies 
of their time. With perfect candour they explain its genesis. They 
forged this weapon on the field of battle, to insure a victory that had 
been long uncertain. 

What subjects were in dispute in those theological frays of the 
second century, whose turmoils and confusion give an idea of chaos? 
The question was of the true doctrine, and how it could be recognised. 
To consent to discussion with teachers of heresy was dangerous on many 
considerations. In the first place, there was no hope of either refuting 
or convincing them. In the domain of science or exegesis, Catholic 
bishops, with all their admirable virtues, were weak before a Valentinian 
or a Marcion. Besides, this would be to descend to the shifting sand 
of individual and subjective opinion, with its endlessly renewed philo- 
sophical processes. Should they appeal to the apostolic writings, the 
canon of which the Church had but then completed? But here they 
would encounter that criticism which the adversaries so freely exercised 
upon both the text and the origin of these writings. Or indeed, like 
Marcion, they had a different collection, or the texts were not the same, 
or finally, the interpretation of them differed indefinitely, thanks to the 
allegorical method then everywhere in use, which permitted either party, 
in all good conscience, to make the Scriptures speak in his own favour. 
It was as difficult to come to an agreement upon the meaning of the 
text as upon the truth of the doctrine, since, in all the camps, it was 
in fact the latter which determined the former. Therefore Tertullian 
could not admit of an appeal to the Scriptures, in a discussion with 

The dispute was, indeed, over the Scriptures themselves, and this 


being the case, it could only be decided by a superior authority. Thus 
at this juncture the authority of tradition was practically made superior 
to that of the Bible, for it was tradition which had decided as to the 
contents of the sacred canon, had chosen between the books, those which 
were to be admitted to it and those which must be excluded from it, 
and tradition still gave the rule for rightly using and rightly under- 
standing them/ 

If the tradition of the Church was to be final arbiter of controversy, 
it must needs take on definite form and find a popular mode of expres- 
sion. We have already seen that about the same period it attained to 
both in the baptismal profession of faith.^ 

Such is " the sovereign law," " the canon of truth." Irenasus and 
Tertullian thus reason about it: The mark of the truth of a doctrine 
is its legitimacy. Legitimacy shows itself in antiquity. Heresies are 
false because they are new. Rising up to disturb the churches and 
attacking established tradition, they prove by the very lateness of their 
appearance that the tradition existed before them. The warrant of 
the true faith is found in all the apostolic churches, Rome, Ephesus, 
Corinth, Antioch ; in the uninterrupted succession of their bishops, the 
first of whom were instituted by the apostles themselves, and received 
from them the authentic faith which it was their duty to preach. To 
hold fast to this tradition without wavering is the necessary line of 
conduct, the rule which all must follow. The sole verity which we must 
believe is that which in no respect difi'ers from it. Outside of tradition 
there is only uncertainty and confusion.^ 

Polemics were thus grandly simplified and put within the reach of 

^ Irenaeus, " Adv. Haer.," iii. 2? Tertullian, " De Pres. Haer.," 17. 

^When the advocates of Church tradition undertake to explain what they under- 
stand by this word, they simply recite the symbol or rule of faith at the time in 
force, which they consider as transmitted by the Apostles to their successors, and 
handed down to themselves by the uninterrupted series of bishops. Irenaeus, I. 10, 1, 
III. 4, 2; TertuUian, " De Praescrip. Haer.," 13, 20 f.; "Adv. Prax.," 2. 

'Tertullian, the entire treatise "De Praescriptione"; Origen, " De Princip.," I. 
Praef., 3 and 4; Hippolytus, " Philosophoumena." 


the most humble believer. There was no longer any need of discussing 
the intrinsic proofs of truth; it bore an infallible external mark — its 
legal description given by the bishops themselves. 

By the same act the Church, which had been a party to the suit, 
was made judge of last appeal. She no longer had to plead at the 
bar, but only to pronounce sentence. She no longer disputed with 
heretics, she condemned them. By this juristic expedient, which Ter- 
tullian so well defined and named prescription, heretics were already 
barred out. They came too late. The mere fact that they were outside 
of the tradition of the Church sufficed to prove them outside of the 
truth. From Tertullian to Bossuet the argument never varied; it may 
thus be summed up : " New idea : certain sign of revolt and error." 

What a distance had been travelled from Papias to Tertullian, and 
how had the very idea of tradition been metamorphosed! Papias, too, 
had made appeal to " the living and enduring word," and preferred it 
to the single books, born of the occasion, which circulated in his time. 
But what he thus sought was a historic method of increasing his knowl- 
edge. He did not appeal to the juridical decision of authority, based 
upon the regular order of episcopal succession since the apostles, he 
interrogated the old men who had seen Peter or John or Andrew or 
Philip or any other of the first disciples of the Lord, and could repeat 
their discourses. Fifty years later, the point of view and method of 
procedure of Tertullian and the Church were entirely different. The 
Church had left the field of history, and intrenched itself in that of 
dogma. Tradition was no longer testimony to be gathered, it was an 
official rule of faith, which the bishops first promulgated and then applied 
as apostolic.^ 

To raise a new historic tradition to the rank of supernatural tradi- 
tion and divine, permanent inspiration in the Church itself, one must 
either forget history or do violence to it. The Catholic theory rests; 
upon three premisses which are not only undemonstrable, but fictitious a 
1. That the apostles drew up and left to their successors an unchang€ 

* Appendix XXV, 

able formulary of Christian faith. 2. That succeeding generations 
added nothing, subtracted nothing, changed nothing, as to the customs 
and ideas which they inherited. 3. That bishops are the successors of 
the apostles and heirs of their gifts and privileges. 

These three affirmations are wholly illusory, and a single reading of 
the original texts is enough to dissipate them irrecoverably. But at 
the end of the second century historic criticism did not exist. Men lived 
in the supernatural, and the stream of the marvellous flowed full. In 
such a time dogma becomes a prolific mother of legends. The reflection 
of the idea then dominant transforms the vision of the past. History 
is altered wherever it shows itself contrary to the dogma; where silence 
would do it harm it is made to speak. It is common enough to see chil- 
dren who have attained years of strength fostering and caring for the 
aged father to whom they owe life. Thus, in the course of the cen- 
turies, the pious legends of tradition came forward to legitimise and 
defend the dogma of which they were born. 

These legends, which, we must remember, were the product and com- 
plement of the Catholic theory of tradition, came into being at three 
points, and from generation to generation developed along three parallel 
lines, with ever greater definiteness and wealth of embellishment. 

1. The first were the episcopal lists, which, from about the year 180, 
began to be formed in all the great churches to establish the line of 
apostolic succession in material and tangible form. To this end tradi- 
tional memories were drawn upon, and names were borrowed from the 
apostolic writings. Starting with Eleutherus, who died in 188, we may 
go back by names sufficiently authentic as far as Sixtus or Alexander, 
about the year 130; but back of this the lists of the early Popes or 
bishops of Rome have absolutely no value. The reason Is simple. There 
was no episcopate in Rome, in any proper sense of the word, before the 
reign of Hadrian, as we shall presently see. 

There was need of these official lists in the polemic against the Gnos- 
tic doctors and Montanist prophets; and It is a matter of experience 

that documents of which any authority finds a practical need are always 

2. The twelve Jewish apostles of Jesus appear to have restricted 
their teaching to their own people. Paul gives them no part in the 
evangelisation of the pagan world. It is one of the paradoxes of his- 
tory that they should have become from the close of the second century 
the traditional patrons and authorities of the great churches in whose 
foundation they had almost no part, while Paul and his fellow-labourers, 
Titus, Sosthenes, Aquila, Apollos, those daring pioneers of the new 
religion, are forgotten, or relegated to the second rank and to obscurity. 
Paul is despoiled by John in Ephesus and Asia, as in Antioch and Rome 
by Peter, whose humble and docile satellite he becomes. This historic 
paradox is explained by the legends which came into being at the epoch 
at which we have now arrived. They show us the Twelve assembled at 
Jerusalem, dividing among themselves the map of the world, and then 
setting forth, each to conquer, with the strong aid of miracle and at 
last of martyrdom, the province which to him had been assigned. From 
the forensic standpoint of the theory of tradition, it was necessary that 
the episcopal order should everywhere find the name of an apostle to 
which to fasten its initial link. 

3. Finally, to all these legends must be added, as tending to the 
same end, those which grew up around the Symbol of the Apostles. In 
the beginning the title apostolic, applied to a traditional rule of faith, 
was doubtless intended only to declare the essential conformity of this 
faith to that preached by the apostles. But soon the people began to 
understand it in a stricter and more literal sense. About the middle 
of the third century it was said and believed in Rome that the symbol 
had been brought to the capital of the empire by Peter himself, and 
consequently that it dated back to the very foundation of the Church. 
Ambrose, bishop of Milan, confirmed this pious legend, which Rufinus 
a little later embellished. Before separating, says this writer, the 
apostles, with a view to defining the faith which they were about to 

^Apptaidix XXVI. 


preach throughout the universe, conjointly put into form the terms of 
the symbol, which each one then carried with him. But a legend is like 
a plant, continually putting out new branches and flowers. Isidore of 
Seville knows much more about this one than his predecessors. He tells 
how the apostles met in conclave in Jerusalem. Each one of them, 
moved by the Holy Spirit, rising in turn, uttered, in the silence of the 
others, an article of the Credo. This is why the Creed has twelve 
articles. It became possible even to set over against each of the articles 
the name of the apostle who proclaimed it. The Roman Catechism at 
last adopted and consecrated the whole legend.^ What more striking 
example could be cited of the birth, evolution, and triumph of a religious 
tradition ! 


Development of the Catholic Theory 

At the very time when the principle of the sovereign authority of tradi- 
tion was being so brilliantly posited over against heresy, a collection of 
the writings which had come down from the apostolic age was being 
formed in the Church, under the impulse of the same circumstances, and 
in view of the same necessities, and was canonised as the body of the 
" Books of the New Testament," 

Held as supernaturally inspired, these books, which passed as being 
either by the apostles or their immediate disciples, could not be invested 
with less prestige and credit than the unwritten tradition. Therefore 
they at once found a place beside it in common veneration. The two 
authorities were on an equal footing, and thus far held one another in 
equilibrium.^ It even happened very often that those who sacrificed 
Scripture to tradition, in face of the Gnostic doctors made appeal to it 
against ecclesiastical authority, or the customs of a too obliging tra- 
dition. It was Tertullian himself who uttered this word, trenchant 

'Catech. Rom. See, especially, Nicholas, "La Symbole des Ap&tres," 1867. 
» Appendix XXVII. 


as a sword edge, " Christ said : I am the Truth ; he said not, I am the 
custom ! " ^ 

Such an utterance offered a fecund and necessary principle of criti- 
cism for a tradition which was destined to become ever more densely 
incrusted with superstitions in succeeding centuries. But it came too 
late, and even those who repeated it broke its force by their own contradic- 
tions and inconsistencies. It was impossible that two opposing author- 
ities, constantly at war, should long maintain an equal footing. With 
the progress that the priestly hierarchy and ecclesiastical centralisa- 
tion were making, it was easy to foresee which would have the victory 
and put the other in subordination. What more convenient way of justi- 
fying it all than to say with Pope Leo the Great, " All that has been 
received in the custom and devotion of the Church should be considered 
as derived from tradition and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit." ^ 
The descent was too slippery to be climbed again when once the bottom 
was reached. He who from many points of view may be called a biblical 
Doctor, Augustine, did not hesitate to write by way of silencing the 
arguments of heretics : " I should not believe the Gospel if the authority 
of the Church did not so deteraiine me." ^ This is not quite the same as 
the more outspoken avowal of a modern ultramontane, but it prophesies 
and prepares for it : " But for the authority of the Pope I should not 
put the Bible above the Koran." * 

To rescue the Church from the exclusive influence of Augustine and 
his ideas, and to bring it back to the middle path, was apparently the 
reason why Vincent of Lerins made himself the theorist of Catholic 
tradition, and put forth the famous treatise which has become the classic 
authority on the subject. His definition of the principle is well known: 
" That which has been everywhere, always, and by everyone believed, 

» Appendix XXVITI. 

' Sermo 77, " De Jejunio Pentecost.," 9. For the express and definitive subor- 
dination of the Scriptures, Vincent of Lerins, " Commonitorium," 2. 
' " Contra Epist. Fundamenti," 5. 
*K. Hase, " Handb. d. protest. Polemik," 6th ed., p. 81, 1891. 


that is truly and properly Catholic." Tradition, to be authoritative, 
has, therefore, three marks or criterions by which it may be recognised: 
universality, antiquity, and the consent of all. On this basis doctrinal 
truth was finished and perfect in the Church from the beginning, and 
remains the same through all time and space. From this point of view, 
we may ask, Can there still be any question of the development of the 
Christian spirit in the Church.'' The author replies: The Church guards 
the deposit of faith which has been confided to her ; she changes nothing 
in it, adds nothing to it, subtracts nothing from it; but applies herself 
to express in new language the ancient verities (non nova, sed nove), to 
confirm that which had been clearly defined, to define more clearly that 
which may have remained obscure. There will be progress in the form, 
but no change in the matter.^ 

This fine definition has only one fault, that of remaining abstract 
and formal. Where are we to find this ancient and universal doctrine.? 
What articles of faith, what rites, are marked with the triple seal here 
named? Which are the documents and authentic organs of this im- 
mutable and yet progressive tradition? The Middle Ages are at one 
in finding them in the " Acts " of the Councils, the " Decrees " of the 
Fathers, and the general practice of the Church.^ But among the Coun- 
cils, which are ecumenical and which are not? Are all opinions of the 
Fathers authoritative? And if not, how distinguish those which must 
be received from those which must be rejected? Finally, among the 
practices of the Church, is there no distinction between the obligatory 
and the optional?^ Truly, this body of Catholic tradition, fluid and 
fleeting, is of Protean vagueness. But why should this surprise us? By 
its nature tradition is alive and fruitful, it is always indefinite, because 
it is never exhausted. Checked and fixed, it becomes as a bond or a fet- 
ter; left fluid, mobile, uncertain, it lends itself admirably to the ex- 

^ Commonitorium pro cathol. Ecclesiae antiquitate et universalitate profanas 
omnium haereticorum novitates, 3 (al 4). Cf. Augustine, " De Baptism.," iv. 24. 
= Appendix XXIX. 
"Appendix XXX. 


igencies of ecclesiastical government, which alone has the right to in- 
terpret and apply it. This is why the Church of Rome has always 
obstinately defended it. The infallibility of tradition is the omnipotence 
of the hierarchy.^ 

The theory of Vincent of Lerins was accepted until the seventeenth 
century. Bossuet gave it new life and developed it with his usual elo- 
quence in his polemic against the Protestants : " Catholic truth, coming 
from God, had from the first his perfection. The faith simply speaks, 
the Holy Spirit sheds abroad pure enlightenment, and the truth which 
he teaches has always a uniform language. Any variation in the ex- 
position of the faith is a mark of falsity and inconsistency." The entire 
History of Variations rests upon this foundation. Heresy itself is 
always a novelty, however old it may be ; it is continually making innova- 
tions, and changes its doctrine every day. The Catholic Church, on 
the contrary, immutably attached to its decrees once promulgated, show- 
ing not the slightest variation since the origin of Christianity, manifests 
herself as a church built upon the rock, always secure in herself, or 
rather in the promises which she has received, firm in her principles, and 
guided by a spirit which never contradicts itself.^ 

A great change was coming upon the world and the Church. The 
progress of historic investigation, and the interior evolution of Catholi- 
cism itself, were to leave this claim of immutability without defence, and 
compel the theory of tradition to pass through a final transformation. 

The moderns have acquired the historic sense, and this truly new 
faculty of understanding and reconstructing the past has given them 
a new vision. Nothing endures without being transformed. Life is only 
a process- of rejecting ancient things and assimilating things that are 
new. How could anyone maintain that the Church has lasted eighteen 

* Tfie utterance of Pius IX will be remembered : " La tradifione sono io." He 
proved it by promulgating, in 1854, the dogma of the Immaculate Conception. 

^ " Histoire des Variations des Egl. prot.," preface and conclusion. See, also, 
" Premier avertissement aux Prot.," " Exposition de la doctrine catholique," 2d ed., 
1679; "Conference avec M. Claude." 



centuries without varying? Where in Christian antiquity were the 
dogmas which the men of our own generation have seen brought to hfe, 
that of the immaculate conception of Mary, or that of the infalHbihty of 
the Pope? Or even purgatory and the theory of indulgences, the seven 
sacraments, the reservation of the eucharistic cup from the Christian 
people, auricular confession, obligatory celibacy, the priesthood, and 
the Mass itself in its present form? Is there in the dogmatic of the 
Church, in its liturgy, its constitution, a single formula, a single rite, a 
single institution whose origin cannot be told and the date of its birth 
noted? And have we not heard, in our own days, that Bossuet himself, 
if he had not repented, would have died a heretic? 

There were two factors in the theory of Vincent of Lerins, and the 
Church had received two graces to enable her to accomplish her mission 
as the guardian and protector of the truth: the grace of fidelity in con- 
serving the primitive faith, the grace of inspiration and discernment to 
complete this faith, as time might demand, and make it always and 
everywhere victorious over error. The animating spirit of the Church 
is not only receptive, it is also productive and revelatory. The second 
element of the theory, which Bossuet left in the shade, has to come to 
the front. It justifies all the variations of history, and the grace of 
inspiration absolves the Church from the reproach of inconstancy and 

The surprising thing is not that this transformation has taken place, 
since it was inevitable, but that its starting point and historic cause come 
from an idea of Protestant theology. 

In the beginning of the last century, Schleiermacher singularly 
fathomed and verified the very idea of tradition by spiritualising it. 
He represented it as the interior soul, the very conscience of every 
religious society, a sort of characteristic genius, a collective spirit, which, 
while remaining faithful to its inner nature, manifested itself in ever 
new creations, presided over the development of the society, maintnming 
its moral identity, and assuring to generations to come the spiritual 

heritage of generations gone by. It was a new philosophy, born of the 
contemplation of the movement of history.* 

Immediately the most eminent Catholic theologians made it their 
own. Moehler ^ in Germany, Newman ^ in England, and many learned 
men, almost everywhere, developed a new theory of tradition, which pre- 
vails at the present day. Like a family or a nation, the Church has its 
own characteristic genius, which lives and is active in her. This genius 
is the Spirit of the prophets and the apostles, it is the very Spirit of God, 
which Christ promised to those who believe in him. Eternally creative 
power, light ever new, brilliantly shining in the darkness, this Spirit re- 
news the ancient things, and brings forth from them things that are 
new ; he opens the closed book of the Scriptures and reveals its profound 
significance. Thanks to him, the divine revelation is not a dry parch- 
ment in the archives of an ever receding past, it becomes real, present, 
unlimited. In a word. Catholic tradition is Christ himself reincarnate 
from generation to generation in the historic Church, which is his body, 
and carrying on through all the ages a perpetual ministry of mediation 
and revelation.* 

The old line of argument of theologians like Bossuet, Vincent of 
Lerins, Tertullian, is reversed. The pyramid rests upon its apex. That 
which was the conclusion of the theory has become its premiss. The 
Church is infallible because it has the deposit of truth, and it possesses 
the truth because it is infallible. The circle is closed. 

An interesting observation should be made here: taken all in all, the 
new theory is the most dangerous of concessions to modern ideas, and a 
complete apotheosis of the hierarchy. 

Upon no other point has Roman Catholic theology an appearance 
of greater liberality, of closer reconciliation with idealistic philosophy; 

' Schleiermacher, " Der christl. Glaube Einleitung," 1821. Cf. Marheineke, "Das 
System d. Katholicismus "; Hegel, " Philosophie der Geschichte," complete works, vol. 9. 

^"Die Einheit der Kirche," 2d edit.; " Symbolik oder Darstellung d. dogmat. Ge- 
gensaetze der Kathol. u. Protest.," vol. 9. 

' " Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine," 1848. 

* Perrone, " Praelect. Theol.," ii. p. 24 ff., viii. p. 30. 


as a matter of fact, on no other does she more faithfully obey the inner 
logic of the Catholic principle, nor better serve the hopes and plans now 
realised by the Roman curia. 

The philosophic concession is evident; it lies in the assimilation of 
the life and genius of the Church with the life and genius of common- 
place people. The dogma of tradition is entirely transformed. It is 
no longer a determined and fixed group of supernatural verities, once for 
all revealed. The Church not only guards the doctrine, she produces 
it. Dogma is born and developed in history, and, this being the case, 
it can be stated and explained like any philosophical production, lit- 
erary or moral. That which had appeared to be fixed and solid has 
become mobile, its ice has liquefied, and the stream has begun to flow. 
But the danger is perceived. 

From the absolute, doctrine has fallen into the relative. There is, 
then, only one way to save its infallible character, the Church itself must 
be deified that all its works and productions may be divine. Therefore 
its entire history has been canonised, it has been supernaturalised in its 
every movement. But just here appears the radical inconsistency of 
the system. To deify history is to deny it in its essence and reality. To 
say that men have followed in one another's footsteps laboriously seek- 
ing for truth, and have continually discovered it without the possibility 
of ever having erred, is the same thing as to say that men are struggling 
to do well and attain to virtue without the possibility of ever falling 
into sin. Infallibility, like perfect holiness, makes history useless. And, 
since Catholic theologians compare the Church with the divine-human 
person of Christ, we would say that they are falling into the error of 
the so-called Monophysites, who, losing the human nature of the Saviour 
in his divine nature, leave him only a vain appearance of humanity. In 
the same way Catholic evolutionists keep only a vain appearance of evo- 
lution. The supernatural dogma destroys the sincerity of history. 

Let us follow to the end. In the strictest sense, the Church is simply 
the sacerdotal hierarchy. In this hierarchy reside the soul of the 


Church, its infallible tradition, its divine inspiration. And as the 
Christian laity formerly abdicated in favour of the hierarchy, so has the 
episcopate in its turn abdicated in favour of the papacy. The Church 
with all its supernatural graces, its privileges, and its infallibility, is 
summed up and concentrated in the person of the supreme Pontiff. This 
person, the true incarnation of the Christ, is infallible, like the Christ 
whose place he holds. The Pope, like the Church, is not only the 
guardian and interpreter of tradition, he may at any moment create 
it by his inspired utterance and infallible decisions ; he is the living tradi- 
tion. But, this being so, it is possible to say that there is no longer 
any tradition. Thus completing itself, the Catholic dogma of tradi- 
tion denies its own existence. Thenceforth tradition is all in the present ; 
no one can make appeal to it against the Pope; it has, indeed, no 
longer any historic content ; it is only a label, under which there is and 
must ever be nothing other than the permanent inspiration and infalli- 
bility of the Roman Pontiff.^ 



The Episcopate and Tradition 

In the Catholic system tradition is to the episcopate what the body 
is to the soul. Their union constitutes the living organism of the 
Church. Without the episcopate tradition would remain a purely 
idealistic conception, something analogous to the Hegelian notion of 
the spirit realising itself and being evolved in history ; it would not be 
a force nor a rule of government. Without tradition the episcopate 
would be merely a political caste whose reason for being had been lost, 
and whose power it would be impossible to justify. These two elements 

' Appendix XXXI. 


are all the more closely allied because each, being without integral 
strength, draws from the other such strength as it actually exercises. 

Tradition is only another name for the well-known theory of apostolic 
succession, whence the Church deduces the divine right of bishops to 
teach truth and govern souls. It is therefore natural that tradition 
and episcopacy, forming an organic whole, and each powerless without 
the other, coming into being at the same time and from the same his- 
toric causes, should have developed along parallel lines, gaining strength 
each by the other, till their common ascendency became complete. A 
twofold illustration of the supernatural principle underlies the process ; 
a divine act of institution at the beginning, leading in course of time to 
the theory that the entire institution was divine. 

Boldly sketched out in the writings of Irenaeus, Tertullian, and 
Origen, the Catholic theory of the Episcopate was completed by Cyprian 
(248-258). But the history of Catholicism presents this singular law, 
that dogmatic theory always lags two or three centuries behind the prac- 
tical reahty. A certain condition is produced by the action of general 
and natural causes ; thence, the condition being established, dogma comes 
in to supernaturalise and consecrate it in a formula assumed to be primi- 
tive and divine. The papacy had in fact exercised supreme magistracy 
in matters of faith, and ultimate jurisdiction in the discipline and gov- 
ernment of the Church, for some two centuries before the Vatican Coun- 
cil sanctioned its authority by the dogma of the personal infallibility 
of the Pope, and made the Bishop of Rome in some sort the unique and 
universal bishop. So was it with the episcopate. We can trace it from 
its coming into existence in the reign of Trajan, as it laboriously estab- 
lishes itself as a fact in one after another of the great churches; the 
theory that it had been supernaturally instituted, which Cyp^an devel- 
oped and the Church adopted, came a hundred and fifty years later. 

Setting aside, then, all dogmatic prepossession, it is meet that we 
should go to history and to history alone to ask for the origin of the 
episcopate ; its reply will be all the more clear because the natural evolu- 


tion by which Christianity passed from its primitive form to its Catholic 

form is more visible and striking here than anywhere else. 


History of the First Christian Community of Corinth 

This evolution will appear in fuller light if, instead of drawing a general 
picture, all the details of which cannot be equally clear, we take the his- 
tory of a particular church as the object of our observation and study. 
The Church of Corinth affords such an object. Three documents of 
undoubted authenticity and ascertained date pennit us to follow its inner 
life for more than a century.^ 

The two letters of the Apostle Paul to the Corinthian Christians, 
with the eighteenth chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, open up to 
us the first beginnings of this great Church. The letters followed 
by five or six years Paul's first preaching in Achaia. What a vivid 
and stirring picture they give of the first community, its customs and 
its temperament ! What spontaneity of impulse among all its members ! 
What fraternal equality, what libertj', what superabundance of spiritual 
gifts and enthusiastic manifestations, which as yet no official organisa- 
tion modified or reduced to order, no legal authority dominated or ruled.^ 

While insisting upon his apostolic authority, Paul neither understood 
nor exercised it as any other than a moral authority, wholly of persua- 
sion. He speaks as a father to his children, as an experienced guide 
to new beginners; always recognising and insisting upon the autonomy 
of the community itself, as inwardly ruled by the Spirit of God, which 
it, like himself, had received.^ Where do we find the divinely instituted 

" These three documents, which cover the period at almost equal intervals, are the 
two Epistles of Paul to the Corinthians, which date from the years 56 and 58 of our 
era; the letter of Clement of Rome, written in the name of the Church of Rome to 
that of Corinth about the year 96; the testimony of Hegesippus, and the memoirs of 
Bishop Dionysius, preserved by Eusebius, H. E., IV. 22, 1, IV. 23, 9. 

=" 1 Cor. i. 10-12, x-xiv. 

" 1 Cor. iv. 14, 19, V. 1-6, iu. 31-23, 2 Cor. i. 24. 


bishop? Where is the legal and official authority? The directing 
power resides nowhere else than in the assembly of believers, who decide 
everything in last resort, after longer or shorter deliberation, precisely 
as in the little Greek republics, where all citizens having the right to vote 
assembled in the Agora to judge the accused and regulate pubhc affairs. 
Here, as there, sentence is taken by the majority of suffrages.^ In 
short, we are facing a true Christian democracy, with all the charac- 
teristics and all the faults inherent in this form of government. 

The bond which formed and maintained the unity of the association 
was still simply of the mystical and moral order.^ Christians were 
" sanctified," " men set apart " (aytot), forming a single body, because 
they had a common faith, a reciprocal love, and a common hope. Frater- 
nal exhortation, or, in extreme cases, sequestration from the assembly of 
the " saints " and abandonment to Satan, were the sole means of dis- 
cipline. Without the slightest doubt, here as in every social body, 
various functions were developed spontaneously to respond to the needs 
of the common life. The Spirit of God himself provided therefor, 
according to the apostle, by the diversity of gifts and vocations which 
were shed abroad in the Church. These gifts, which were considered 
to be supernatural, manifested themselves spontaneously on all occasions, 
from the vocations of apostles, prophets, teachers, administrators, down 
to gifts of heahng the sick, of discerning the spirits, and of speaking 
in unknown tongues.^ 

Naturally, at this period we find no trace of a division of Christians 
into clergy and laity. All formed the elect people, and conversely, this 
people was collectively a people of priests and prophets. There were 
no passive members. The most humble had their share of activity and 

' 1 Cor. iv. 3-5, whence ft appears that the Corinthian Christians arrogated to 
themselves even the right to judge of the apostolate of Paul himself, v. 4, 13, vi. 1-5, 
2 Cor ii. 6. 

' The Christians together formed the body of Christ, because the spirit of Christ 
lived in each of them, and became to them as a common soul. — 1 Cor. xii. 12 ff. Cf. 
Gal. iii. 27-29. 

« I Cor. xii. 4-11, 28-30. Cf. Rom. xii. 5-8. 


were by no means least necessary. The zeal of all was extreme; they 
needed curb and discipline rather than stimulus.* 

What can be clearer in our sources than this free administration of 
the community by itself, in the absence of all directing power super- 
imposed upon it by supernatural delegations? Paul spares it neither 
reproach nor counsel, but only to rouse it to action, not to substitute 
his authority for its own. It exercises full rights of jurisdiction upon 
its own responsibility, it sits in supreme tribunal, chooses its delegates 
and representatives, organises collections, and regulates acts of worship. 
The services and functions of the common life were at first freely per- 
formed by the spontaneous devotion of certain brethren whose gifts, 
circumstances, and character pointed them out in advance for the work. 
But it is certain that these very functions were never exercised except 
with the consent and under the control of all. 

Here, as in nature, it is correct to say that the need normally created 
the organ. At the end of his first letter Paul mentions the household 
of Stephanas, who were the first-fruits of his mission in Achaia, and 
whose members had ordained themselves for the service of the community. 
Did he feel any need of conferring upon them any other ordination than 
this inward ordination of the Holy Spirit? ^ He simply exhorts the other 
Christians to show themselves deferential and submissive to them. So 
in the Epistle to the Romans he notes a zealous Christian, Phoebe, 
who had performed the same functions for the early believers at 
Cenchrese as the family of Stephanas at Corinth, and he places her in 
the same rank of voluntary servant and patron of the community.' It 
is needless to say that by degrees, as the little Christian church lost its 
family character, and by expansion took on that of a great urban or 
regional association, these functions became more stable and regular. 

* 1 Cor. xiv. Paul was oblig'ed to recall to modesty and silence the women who 
were also endowed with inspiration, 1 Cor. xi. 5-16, xiv. 34. He left to the church 
itself the charge of reprulatine- these matters, 1 Cor. xi. 13-16. 

* 1 Cc* xvi. 15 ff. Note the expression, (^ra^av iavroi>s. 

* Rom. xvi. 1, 2. 


Provision was made for them by election by the general assembly of 
brethren.' Such was the germ whence naturally grew the orders of 
deacons, of elders, of episcopoi or overseers, which appear to have been 
constituted at Corinth, as everywhere else, a few years later. There is 
no more mystery or miracle or sacramental element in this spontaneous 
organisation than in those at that time found in every large city, 
whether in the synagogues of the Jews of the Dispersion or in the pagan 
associations, where we find the same interior ministrations designated 
by the same names. ^ 

Let us pass over forty years. The letter which the church of Rome 
addresses to its sister church of Corinth by the pen of Clement, one of 
its elders, toward the end of the reign of Domitian, shows the latter 
church again passing through an important crisis. A part of the com- 
munity, the younger and less docile part, had put itself in rebellion 
against the " elders and heads " established and recognised by the 
Church, and had even effected the deposition of some of these in tumul- 
tuous assemblies.^ Neither in Rome nor in Corinth was there yet a 
bishop in the Catholic sense of the word. In his letter Clement does 
not dispute the right of the Corinthian Christians to depose their elders 
and heads. Simply, the right should be exercised only for grave and 
legitimate reasons, which were wanting in these circumstances, so that 
the revolution attempted by some appeared like the effect of jealousy, 
the spirit of disorder and turbulence, rather than a work of justice and 
piety. This is why the church of Rome blames the agitators, invites 
them to repentance, and to submit themselves to the elders who have 
been duly invested with their charge, or, if they cannot do this, to leave 
the country that the Corinthian community may again enter into order 
and peace.* 

But such crises, even when happily quieted, cannot but leave conse- 

» 2 Cor. viii. 19, Acts vi, 5, xiv. 23; " Teaching of the Apostles," 15. 

'Appendix XXXII. 

'Clement of Rome, 1 Cor. 1 and 44. 

* Appendix XXXIII. 

quences behind them. The authority which they do not destroy is neces- 
sarily strengthened by the process. This was the case with the eccle- 
siastical authority in Corinth. The agitations and discords of the early 
days, of the time of Paul himself, had resulted in constituting a stronger 
and more legal body of presbyters, who for more than thirty years had 
assured the uniform progress and prosperity of the Church.^ The crisis 
of the year 96 brought this Church into position for another step in the 
direction of greater concentration of the directing authority. Just as 
this authority had passed from the body of believers into the hands of a 
Senate, or council of Elders, so it was to pass from their hands into 
those of the most influential man among them, their natural head, who 
would thus become the sole bishop, the centre and personification of the 
entire community, the official guardian of the traditional faith, and the 
depository of the authority of all. The history of ecclesiastical evolu- 
tion during the first two centuries is that of a double abdication; the 
assembly of believers first remit their powers to their elect men, the 
preshyterol; and in its turn the body of preshyteroi or episcopoi — for at 
first both were one — becomes epitomised in a single personage, its rep- 
resentative, who becomes the episcopos by pre-eminence, the Catholic 
bishop, until such time as this episcopate in its turn shall abdicate into 
the hands of the bishop of Rome, who will thus become the universal 
bishop, the personification and compendium of all Christendom. To use 
the political language of Montesquieu, it is the passage from a state of 
pure democracy, first to the state of republican oligarchy, and thence 
to the monarchical state. 

This evolution had been completed at Corinth when Hegesippus, on 
his wa}' to Rome, spent some time there between the years 135 and 150. 
He found there a true bishop, by name Primus, under whose undisputed 
authority the Church so long convulsed was living in the most irre- 
proachable orthodoxy and profound peace. A little later Dionysius of 
Corinth, whose influence extended far, aff'ords a fine type of the Catholic 
' Clement of Rome, 1 Cor. 1 and passim. 


bishop of the second century, taking a place beside Polycarp at Smyrna 
and Soter at Rome.* 


Progressive Development of the Episcopate 

That which had been taking place in Corinth had been taking place in 
almost all Christian communities in the great cities. The same history, 
with variations, was being repeated everywhere. An institution like that 
episcopacy which dominated the second century of the Church is not 
formed by a single act nor in one day. There was here neither special 
decree of institution nor act of private will. In the general movement 
by which the organisation of the early churches led up to the Catholic 
episcopate and the hierarchy, we must see the workings of a social law, 
and the action of historic causes, as independent of the divine arbiter, 
that is to say, of miracle, as of human premeditation. 

The little Christian communities which were rapidly being formed 
almost everywhere were the work of itinerant preachers. The apostles 
were nothing else. Their name simply means missionary. It is an error 
to think that the name was reserved solely to the Twelve, or that they 
formed a closed college with an exclusive delegation to govern Chris- 
tendom and regulate its faith. The number of apostles of Christ 
(aTToa-ToXoL Tov Xpia-Tov) was in fact considerable. It was the title which 
those took, who, for one reason or another, whether as the consequence 
of some word of Jesus heard while he was in the flesh, or later as 
the result of a vision and a command of the Spirit, went forth spon- 
taneously to publish his gospel and found new churches. But to have 
received this vocation, whether sooner or later, created in Paul's eyes no 
essential distinction. The chief personage, the true head of the church 
of Jerusalem and of the Jewish churches, was James, who was not one of 
the Twelve ; and the greatest of the apostles to the Gentiles was Paul of 
^Eusebius, H. E. IV. 33, 1; 33, 9. 

Tarsus, who had only been called to the apostolate by Jesus after His 

The notion and the representation of a directoral college composed 
of the Twelve alone, to whom Christ had transmitted his authority to 
the exclusion of all others, together with special grace for its exercise, 
are late and legendary. The first link of the golden chain forged by 
Catholicism to attach its hierarchy to the apostles is a myth. 

In the beginning we find two great classes of labourers occupied with 
the work of God ; one was the men of the word, apostles, prophets, teach- 
ers, the other was the " elders," the overseers or episcopoi, and the 

Between them is just this difference, that the former are in the 
service of the Church at large, and even of the world which must be con- 
verted, and in the last analysis were responsible only to the Spirit who in- 
spii-ed and guided them, while the latter, on the contrary, are the min- 
isters, the elected servants, of a particular community, and are held 
responsible by it for their charge. 

Thence it follows that in the apostolic age freedom of teaching was 
absolute; it belonged to all members of the Church in their very char- 
acter as Christians, for all had received the Spirit. A conflict between 
these free itinerant preachers and the settled official leaders of the 
churches was inevitable. The authority of the latter must often have 
suffered from the inspirations of the former. Nevertheless, this liberty 
was long preserved. No doubt it was the persistent cause of the troubles 
in Corinth, which the letter of Clement was intended to repress. Hermas, 
Justin Martyr, Tatian, Origen, are witnesses, down to the third century, 
of this ancient freedom, of which the laity was finally entirely despoiled, 
for the benefit of an official clergy invested with a monopoly of things 
divine. It was in the necessity of things that the ecclesiastical authority 
should lay its hand upon the office and prerogative of teaching. A verse 
in the Pastoral Epistles marks the movement of transition : " Let the 
elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially those 

» Appendix XXXIV. 


that labour in the word and in teaching." ^ Nothing contributed more 
practically to the establishment of the episcopate. The prerogatives of 
the office increased with the distinction of him who exercised it. In the 
end the entire activity of the community was concentrated in him. 

Confided to the care of a single official person, doctrine was more 
easily guarded against innovations, and unity of teaching was more 
surely maintained. The " Teaching of the Apostles " preserves a curious 
testimony of the reaction almost universally felt at the close of the first 
century, against itinerant prophets and preachers, and individual in- 

We must go back for a moment to note this capital fact; not only 
do we not find in the beginning any formal institution of episcopacy, or 
of any hierarchy whatsoever, but the names episcopos and presbyteros are 
equivalent, and designate the same persons; one word being defined by 
Greek usage, after the analogy of the pagan brotherhoods, the other 
by Hebraic usage, after the analogy of the synagogues. Whence it 
appears that we have to do indijfferently with several bishops, or over- 
seers, or several elders, or directors, in the same community. Both are 
" pastors," shepherds leading the flock of Christ, who remains the 
" chief Shepherd of souls." This identity of office appears not only in 
the epistles of Paul, but also in the Acts of the Apostles, the First Epistle 
of Peter, the letter of Clement, the Shepherd of Hermas, the Teaching 
of the Apostles, and elsewhere. 

The testimony of the early Church is universal, and admits of not a 
single exception.^ Long after, in a period when all relations had under- 
gone a change, St. Jerome preserved the following testimony, summing 
it up in these terms : " The presbyter is the same as the bishop, and be- 

'Tim. V. 17. [The author's French translation shows his meaning more clearly. 
" The presbyter or episcopus who can join the gift of teaching to the duty of adminis- 
tration and direction has double merit, and is worthy of double honour." The Greek is, 
01 KoXws wpoea-TuiTes irpe<T^iT€poi StTrX^s Tifxiji d^ioiff^uffav, /idXiara ol KoiriQvrei iv \6ftf Kol 
Si5a<TKa\l(f. — Trans.] 

' Appendix XXXV. 

* Appendix XXXVI. 

fore parties had been raised up in religion by the provocations of Satan, 
the churches were governed by the Senate of the presbyters. But as each 
one sought to appropriate to himself those whom he had baptised, in- 
stead of leaving them to Christ, it was appointed that one of the pres- 
byters, elected by his colleagues, should be set over all the others, and 
have chief supervision over the general well-being of the community. 
And this is not my private opinion, it is that of Scripture. If you 
doubt that bishop and presbyter are the same, that the first word is one 
of function, and the second one of age, read the epistle of the Apostle 
to the Philippians. Without doubt it is the duty of the presbyters to 
bear in mind that by the discipline of the Church they are subordinated 
to him who has been given them as their head, but it is fitting that the 
bishops, on their side, do not forget that if they are set over the pres- 
byters, it is the result of tradition, and not by the fact of a particular 
institution of the Lord." This judgment of the most learned of the 
Fathers of the Western Church found a place in the decree of Pope 
Gratian, and reappears in many ecclesiastical authors down to the 
seventh century.^ 

Once the Galilean idyll had come to a close with the death of Jesus 
at Jerusalem, the Christian religion, if we overlook the little peasant 
communities beyond the Jordan, presents itself in history as a religion 
of large cities ; it gets its foothold in populous towns, in the provincial 
capitals of the empire, and thence radiates into all the surrounding 
country. Its first centres were Antioch, Tarsus, Ephesus, Smyrna, 
Philippi, Corinth, Alexandria, Rome, and later, Carthage, Aries, Vienne, 
Lyons. In these great centres the focus, the place where religious serv- 
ices and the agapes were held, was at first a private house, like that of 
Stephanas or Chloe or Titus Justus in Corinth, of Aquila and Priscilla 
at Ephesus, of Philemon at Colosse, of Jason at Thessalonica, of Lydia 
at Philippi, etc.^ These little family churches were very numerous in 
the same city. This is certain so far as Corinth, Ephesus, and Rome are 
» Appendix XXXVII. » Appendix XXXVIII. 

concerned. The power of mystic union emanating from the gospel caused 
these ecclesiolcB to consider themselves not merely as sisters, but as mem- 
bers of a single larger community, which also needed a larger representa- 
tion and more general direction. To the central council, common to all, 
it is probable that each of the little groups sent a delegate to sit as 
'presbyter; but it may be understood that each central council would give 
itself one or more episcopal, charged to watch over the general interests 
and needs of the entire community, and that these episcopoi, or this 
episcopoSy becoming the head of the whole body, would enjoy a real pre- 
eminence, and a greater authority in it. Here is yet another cause of the 
formation of the episcopate. Before long the sentiment of a special 
dignity was attached to the title of bishop. Those who directed rival 
communities in the neighbourhood would claim it in their turn, and thus 
arose the chorepiscopoi, or village bishops, who, necessarily subordinate 
to him of the metropolis, constituted for the latter what was called the 
" diocese." All this system necessarily followed the Roman adminis- 
trative divisions. 

As for the Corinthian community, so for the other great churches, 
we might fix, with a fair degree of certainty, the evolutionary period, 
which by degrees raised one of these presbyteroi to the place and rank of 
sole and sovereign bishop. At Rome, for example, the process was not 
more rapid than at Corinth itself. At the close of the first century there 
was still no bishop there, in the new, specific sense of the word. It ap- 
pears from the letter of Clement that the church of Rome, like that of 
Corinth, had several directors at its head, and was governed by a more or 
less numerous presbyterate. Thirty years later the " Shepherd " of 
Hermas shows the same condition, except that he also bears witness, not 
without severe blame, to disputes which here, as in Corinth, have arisen 
over the episcopal office, to divisions and competitions breaking out 
among the presbyteroi, who sought the first place in the assembly of be- 
lievers.^ The first who figures as bishop of Rome appears to have been 
1 Hermas, " Shepherd," Vis. II. 4, 3. 


Pius, or more correctly, after liim Anicetus, the contemporary and friend 
of Polycarp, about the year 150. Those who are cited before these men 
were merely " elders," several of whom no doubt sat together in the coun- 
cils of the church.^ 

At Philippi the constitution of the monarchical episcopate was not 
less slow to form. The letter which Paul wrote to this church in the 
year 63 or 64< proves that at that time it was governed by deacons and 
episcopoi in the plural. In the year 120 or 121 the system had not 3'et 
been changed. The letter of Polycarp bears testimony to this in a man- 
ner which admits of no doubt. 

By reason of the reputation or personal authority of some eminent 
leader, who was at first only a presbyter, several churches passed from 
the presbyterial to the monarchic episcopal system without shock, and 
almost without being aware of a change. Thus it was with the church 
of Smyrna, under the long leadership of Polycarp, who, bom about the 
year 70, was already at its head in the reign of Trajan, and governed 
it until the year 154 or 155. Thus, no doubt, it was in the church of 
Antioch with Ignatius, in that of Hierapolis with Papias, and that of 
Sardis with Meliton. The presbyterial council had everywhere a presi- 
dent, to whom was given the pre-eminent title of episcopos. In all the 
churches, therefore, the germ existed whence the Catholic episcopate 
should more or less rapidly grow, according as circumstances were more 
or less favourable. Nowhere was there occasion to import it from with- 
out or make it out of whole cloth. 

Nevertheless, this concentration of all power in a single hand, this 
exaltation of a single personage above all the others, did not take place 
without awakening protest. Revolutions, however happily conducted, 
bring on storms. 

The local resistance encountered by the one under consideration left 
its traces in the books of the New Testament, which date from the 
epoch of Trajan, that is, from the last years of the first century, or the 

1 Appendix XXXIX. 


early years of the second. There are, first, the writings which issued 
from the " Johannean " school of Ephesus. In the third letter of John 
we find an unnamed presbyter, doubtless John the Presbyter of Ephesus, 
denouncing to Gains the unruly conduct of a certain Diotrephes, who 
desired to have the first place, and exercise the sole authority in the com- 
munity, and who, to the end, does not hesitate go to extremes, even to 
driving from the church those who, by their fidelity to the old customs, 
are an obstacle to his ambition.^ 

About the same time the saying which it is claimed that Christ ad- 
dressed to Peter, " Thou art Peter, and on this rock I will build my 
church," made its first appearance with the last redaction of the Gospel 
of INIatthew; the name of Peter became the patron and warrant of the 
episcopal constitution of the Church. This being the case, it is im- 
possible not to see a protest against this tendency in the premeditated 
subordination in which the author of the Fourth Gospel places Peter 
with regard to the " disciple whom Jesus loved." Peter is neither the 
sole nor the surest interpreter of the Master's thought. He had need 
to approach it by way of the disciple who reclined in the Lord's bosom, 
and it even seems that while Peter went to martyrdom, the Lord had 
willed that John should survive and give the last directions to the 

All this means nothing if it does not signify that official authority is 
less valuable than love as a tie to Christ, and for communion with him. 
From the beginning the ecclesiastical hierarchy met its eternal enemy in 
mystic piety, inwardly confident, zealous to find God in liberty, and 
without intermediary.^ 

Not less significant, and with the same meaning, are the exhortations 
which the First Epistle of Peter, whatever its authority and date, ad- 
dresses to the presbyteroi. There is no question of any bishop ; but allu- 
sion is made, with vigorous reprobation, to those who bring no devotion 
to their functions, or who exercise them with an eye to discreditable bene- 
* Appendix XL. 'Appendix XLI. 


fits, or with the ambition to rule, imagining themselves the masters of 

other classes of the community.^ 

Finally, we hear the same complaint from Hermas, vehemently de- 
nouncing the dissensions and wranglings for the highest rank, which 
are disturbing the council of presbyters in Rome, and exhorting them to 
repent and keep the peace by purity of sentiment, humility, and charity.^ 

But, on the whole, these voices, however numerous, were isolated, and 
could effect nothing to stem the current which was carrying the Christian 
body along. They were trying to maintain a passing order which no 
human power could keep from passing. In proportion as Christianity 
grew inwardly cold, it felt the necessity of strengthening its external 
unity by a more closely knit organisation. The discipline, authority, and 
unified government of the bishop must henceforth make good the ever 
growing deficit in faith, hope, and love. Future heresies were destined to 
hasten the movement and render it irresistible. 


The Priesthood 

Episcopact is something more than a monarchical government. It is 
a sacerdotal government; the priestly idea completes the idea of the 

In the third and fourth centuries Christianity, like the older re- 
ligions, presents a priestly caste with identical functions and titles. The 
epithets sacerdos, pontifex, passed from the heads of Jewish or pagan 
priests to those of the Christian priesthood. Sacrifice became the 
essence of the new cult, as it had been of those of former times. There 
was only one difference, the ancient sacrifices were figurative and vain, 
while the sacrifice of the Mass was the sole true and efficacious sacrifice. 
But the sacerdotal notion is the same. 

* 1 Pet. V. 1-6, especially the words KaraKvpieioin-ts tQv KK-fipuv. The k'K'^ aic 
the divers orders of members comprising the community. 
' Hermas, " Shep.," Vis, iii. 9, 7-10, and " SimU.," viii. 7, 4. 


Henceforth the priest is endowed with a sacred character, a divine 
privilege raises him above the rest of men. In his dread hand he holds 
the mercies and the wrath of God, he gives or refuses the expiation that 
seems necessary, and holds in his hand the keys of heaven and hell. As 
in the old religions, so in the religious system of CathoHcism, to enter 
into relations with God the people must accept the mediation of the 
priest, and thus, for all that concerns the rehgious life, they remain in 
absolute dependence upon him. The CathoHc Church made admirable 
use of the rites of worship and sacerdotal forms of the past, in organis- 
ing her worship and constituting her hierarchy. Nowhere is the survival 
of ancient elements in new institutions more apparent. It is very cer- 
tain that the idea of a new priesthood, a superior caste, among Chris- 
tian people, is absolutely foreign to the thought of Jesus and to the 
gospel preached by the apostles. Its later triumph must be explained 
like many analogous historic phenomena, by the natural, and no doubt 
inevitable, reprisals of vanquished religions from those who overcame 
them only by, in many respects, perpetuating them. 

If the new principle of the gospel was to be reahsed in a popular 
religious society, or even if it was to make itself understood and enter 
the consciousness of the old world, it could not remain purely spiritual ; 
it was doomed, if I dare say so, to flow in the religious moulds of the 
past. This historic realisation of the Christian principle within the 
framework of pre-existing habits and notions, or, properly speaking, 
the delimitation of Catholicism, was the work of the first three centuries.* 
This evolution is simimed up in the history of two words : priest and 
clergy. Our word priest comes from the Greek word presbyter, to which 
originally all sacerdotal idea was foreign. It was precisely translated 
in Latin by senior, elder, delegated to the Senate to administer the affairs 
of the community. He was designated by election for services rendered, 
or to be rendered, precisely as were the aediles by the electors of the 

* See the author's " Esquisse d'une Philosophie de la Religion," p. 233 flf. [English 
translation, " Outlines of a Philosophy of Religion."] 


municipality, or as were the rulers of the s3magogues by their fellow- 
worshippers. Not more in one case than another, did anyone suppose 
that this choice withdrew the elect from their natural position. The 
word presbyter has no other meaning until the middle of the second 
century. But it was inevitable that when the Eucharist was invested 
with the appearance and significance of a sacrifice, the presbyter should 
take on the form and functions of a sacerdos. This sacerdotal idea is so 
deeply embedded in the word priest, as entirely to overlay and put out of 
sight its original significance. Priesthood and sacerdos have become 
synonymous. Thus the history of words sometimes tells us that of ideas.^ 

The word clergy has had a precisely parallel destiny. In Greek 
kleros has the most general meaning, from that of a die for gaming and 
fortune-telling, to that of function, ministry, and rank or social class.^ 
In one of his letters Ignatius still applies it to the whole assembly of 
Christians.^ But in reaUty there were several classes or confraternities 
in each community. There was the kleros of ordinary members, that of 
widows and of matrons, that of confessors of the faith, that of deacons, 
elders, and bishops.* 

The invasion and preponderance of the sacerdotal idea disturbed the 
equilibrium of these various classes, and entirely changed the relations 
between those who were clothed with it and the community. They over- 
shadowed or subordinated to themselves all the others, as steps of the 
hierarchic scale, of which they held the top. The order of seniores and 
episcopoi became the pre-eminent ecclesiastical order, the sovereign 
sacerdotal caste, the clergy." 

A priesthood involves the idea of sacrifice. Once introduced into the 
system, the idea of sacrifice was therefore the pivot of the revolution 
which we have just described. The same movement which conducted 
Christian worsliip to the Catholic Mass also led the primitive presbytery 
to the sacerdotal episcopacy. 

* Appendix XLII. '^ Appendix XLIII. ^"Ad Ephes.," xi. 

^Appendix XLIV. "Appendix XLV. 


The worship required by Christ, and defined in his gospel, was worship 
in spirit and in truth, — that is to say, prayer from the heart, trust in 
the Father's love, the moral consecration of soul and life. He thus did 
away with victims and priests, temples and altars. More than once 
Jesus showed his disdain of Levitical rites and sacrifices. He cleansed the 
temple of the merchants who encumbered it, and ended by prophesying 
its approaching destruction.^ With the Messianic era, in any case, 
sacrifices were to cease. ^ How then could the Christian worship have be- 
come in the course of two centuries essentially a sacrifice, and its offici- 
ating minister a priest? 

It began, in the first place, through metaphor. To explain and 
justify so radical a change the preachers of the new religion were forced 
to make use of the old forms of religious speech. They said that the 
sacrifice truly pleasing to God was the giving up of sin ; that the offering 
which he claimed was the gift of the heart, grateful prayer, love of one's 
neighbor, purity of life. Thus Paul, the most spiritualistic of the 
apostles, wrote to the Roman Christians, " Present your bodies a living 
sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God. This is your reasonable service," 
that is, it is the only worship which comes within the logic of your 
faith.^ The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews goes a step farther, 
with his resources of allegorical exegesis and his Alexandrian typology ; 
he discovers in the new covenant the permanent reality of worship, of 
which the old had been only the temporary shadow, high priest and 
victim, temple, altar and expiatory blood.* This method was not without 
danger. The foundation of the new worship was doubtless new, but the 
old forms were maintained. The conception of worship remained funda- 
mentally the same. When the spirit of the Master should breathe less 
warmly, when the body of Christians should grow cold, as in the second 

'John iv. 23, 24; Matt. vi. 1-18, ix. 13; Mark vii. 10-12, xii. 33; John ii. 13-19; 
Matt. xxiv. 2, xxvi. 61; Acts vi. 14, vii. 42-50; Rom. xii. 1, \oyiKr> Xarpela. 
" Rev. xxi. 22: Kal vabv oiiK elSov ivaiirri 

' Rom. xii. 1; Eph. v. 2; Phil. ii. 17, iv. 18; Heb. iii., x.; Rev. v. 9. vi. 9, viii. 3, etc. 
* Heb. v.-x. Cf. Clement of Rome, 1 Cor. 40, 41, and passim. 


century they did, then they would surely be drawn by the force of pagan 
habits into the old ways of the past. On one side ecclesiastical interest, 
conspiring with the formal and superstitious piety of Christians by birth 
and name only, would tend to change the apostolic metaphors into 
positive realities, and the Church would labor to make real in its constitu- 
tion and liturgy that Levitical type of worship which the Old Testament 
presented to it as instituted by God himself. 

All this already appears in the history of the Eucharistic Supper, 
which, by a process easy to follow, became the Roman Catholic sacrifice 
of the Mass. 

In the earliest time it had been a religious feast, a fraternal banquet, 
analogous to the family meal celebrated by the Jews on certain days, 
with prayers of blessing over the bread broken and distributed, and the 
common cup, circulated from hand to hand.^ To partake of the same 
food was to make one body of those who were fed by it. Jesus, like the 
pious Jews of his time, had the habit of observing feasts of this kind with 
his disciples, and of beginning with a prayer of thanksgiving said over 
the bread and ^he wine. It was from this prayer that the rite was named 
E^charist.^ It was entirely natural that the last supper of which he 
partook with his disciples should take on greater solemnity, and that 
the Saviour, just as under the influence of the vision of approaching 
death he had applied Mary's perfume to the embalming of his body, 
should in this case have shown in the broken bread and poured wine, the 
image of his broken body and shed blood.^ But it does not appear that 
in the primitive church of Jerusalem, or later in the other communities, 
the idea of the death of Christ was always attached to the celebration 
of this family meal. No liturgy was adopted for it. Prophets and 
apostles improvised the prayers and exhortations which accompanied the 

* Treatise Berachoth in Babylonian Talmud, Schwab's edit., p. 410 ff., and the 
Jewish Ritual. Vide Lightfoot, " Horse Hebraicae." 

*Mark vi. 41 and paral. viii. 7, xiv. 23; 1 Cor. x. 16, ei\oy^ffas, e^x^P"'"^^*''"*. "for-fipiov 

• Appendix XLVI. 


distribution of the bread and wine, the symbol of the spiritual food with 
which God nourished the souls of his elect/ 

In Paul's churches, on the contrary, the Lord's Supper was from 
the beginning the epitome or the symbol of the gospel of the cross, that 
is, of the death of Christ, who offered himself as an expiatory victim for 
the salvation of men. The " Lord's Supper " was meant to keep alive 
tiie memory of the sacrifice. The Eucharist was distinguished from the 
primitive agape, it preserved this special significance, and finally became 
the central feature of the worship. The elements of the bread and wine 
were thus brought into close relations with the flesh and blood of Christ. 
He who should unworthily eat of this bread and drink of this cup would 
be responsible for the body and blood of the Lord. Without any doubt 
the Eucharist is here still a mere memorial and symbol, but it is a symbol 
already full of mystery.^ 

These two conceptions of the Communion gradually drew together, 
mingled, and were both developed to the idea of a veritable sacrifice. The 
first promptly reached the idea of a sacrifice of oblation, an offering made 
to God by the first-fruits of those vital aliments on which the body of the 
community subsists ; the second finally reached the idea of an expiatory 
sacrifice for sin. 

In both cases the first idea of the Eucharist is reversed. It is no 
longer God who gives, it is the community which offers, that it may after- 
ward obtain. Already in the epistle of Clement of Rome the elements of 
the Supper are represented as an oblation resembling the oblations of the 
Old Testament, brought and laid upon God's altar.^ It is the free offer- 
ing which Jehovah has already demanded by the mouth of the prophet 
Malachi, an offering of joy and gratitude for the fruits of the earth, 
for the spiritual bread and all the benefits of God, including those which 
are included for sinners in the death of Jesus Christ." 

» Appendix XL VII. ' 1 Cor. x. 18-21, xi. 17-29. 

'Clement of Rome, 1 Cor. 36, 1; 40, 1, 2; 41, 3; Ignatius, "Ad Eph."; Justin 
Martyr, « Dial, ad Tryph.," 117. 
• Appendix XL VIII. 


But the more the bread and wine came to be understood as the very 
body of the incarnate Word, the more also was the idea of a simple obla- 
tion of gratitude bound to fade and yield place to the idea of an ex- 
piatory sacrifice, and the act of the priest in the Eucharist appear like 
the repetition of the sacrifice accomplished by Christ upon the cross. 
The nature and effects of the sacrifice were identical in both cases. That 
is to say that the act performed at the altar had the same virtue as the 
death of Jesus. In other words, every day, in the Host consecrated and 
offered according to the official rite, Christ himself is sacrificed again. 
The sign has become the thing signified, and the commemoration of the 
sacrifice on Calvary is its perpetual repetition. Thenceforth, also, the 
virtue of the sacrifice was conceived more and more as magical in its 
effects, and extended in its efficacy. It was not limited to those who 
partook of it, but to all those present or absent, living or dead, whom the 
priest included in his prayer.^ 

With the sacrifice of the Mass the Catholic priesthood was constituted 
upon the model of former priesthoods. It had the same monopoly of 
dread and mysterious power, whether of rendering the Deity propitious, 
or of unchaining his wrath. The consecrating words had the same 
magical effect as the formulas of ancient rituals, and the same power 
(in case of need) to do violence to the divine will. The priest was more 
than a man, more than an angel.^ The necessary mediator between earth 
and heaven, he controls the authority of God himself. He closes, and no 
man opens; he opens, and no man closes. He saves and damns without 
appeal. This is what is called the power of the Keys. 

The separation between people and priest was accomplished. The 

beautiful gospel figure of the shepherd and the flock, literally received 

and interpreted, had been used to support this sacerdotal monopol3\ It 

will be remembered how Lainez, the general of the Jesuits, commented 

upon it in a celebrated discourse before the Council of Trent : " Sheep are 

* In the time of Cyprian the evolution was an accomplished fact, and all its conse- 
quences were unfolding themselves. Cyprian, Epist. 63. 
'Cat Rom., P. II. 7, 3. 


animals destitute of reason, and in consequence they can have no part in 
the government of the Church." ^ There are, therefore, two Churches, 
one which includes the mass of Christian people, the other, the Church in 
the strict sense, is the hierarchy. To the latter pertains the oflSce of 
governing and teaching; to the former that of obeying and receiving 
instruction.^ Catholic architecture has expressed this division of the 
body of Christ by separating the choir from the rest of the church by 
a railing and steps. The choir is the priest's church, the rest is the 
church of the worshippers. Thus in ancient temples a veil or wall kept 
the profane multitude from the sanctuary of the god, which the priest 
alone had the right to enter, and there officiate. 

A beautiful legend, inspired by the primitive Christian spirit, teaches 
that at the very hour when Jesus expired upon the cross the veil of the 
temple in Jerusalem was rent by an invisible hand, and the Most Holy 
Place, until then reserved for the High Priest alone, appeared open, and 
thenceforth accessible to all,^ a figure of the holy equality acquired by 
Jesus for all his disciples. Nothing was farther from the mind of Jesus 
than to constitute a new sacerdotal order. Upon no point has his 
thought been more flagrantly traversed than on this, by those who call 
themselves his heirs. He will have no master among his own, who are all 
brethren. He promises to all, equally, the gift of the Holy Spirit. And 
in the primitive church it was the gift of the Spirit alone which made a 
true Christian. Peter recognised the advent of the Messianic era by the 
fact that the Spirit, until then reserved for certain persons, priests and 
prophets, was then poured out upon all flesh universally.* It was for 
this reason that every believer might speak the word of God in the 
assemblies.^ The apostle Peter writes to the Christians of Asia, without 

» Sarpi, " Hist. Cone. Trident.," VII. p. 1053. 
* " Cat. Rom.," L. 10, 23. 
^Matt. xxvii. 51. 

*Matt. xxiii. 6-10, iii. 11; Mark xiii. 11; Luke xi. 13; Acts u. 33, vi. 3, viii. 15, xv. 8; 
Rom. viii. 9, 23; 1 Cor. ii. 10-16; 2 Cor. xiii. 13, etc. 
' 1 Cor. xiv. 


exception : " Ye are an elect race, a royal priesthood." This is the hymn 
that rings through all the Apocalypse of John : " Christ has made us 
kings and priests unto God his Father."^ The idea of the universal 
priesthood of Christians was long held in the Church, concurrently with 
that of the priests, which in the end abolished it. Yet Justin Martyr, 
Irenasus, Tertullian still bear witness to the original authority of this 
idea and to its persistence.^ 

" Universal priesthood " is a metaphorical expression borrowed from 
the past to express something essentially new, so true it is that new ideas, 
to be comprehended, must appear in an old dress. But this Christian 
metaphor none the less distinctly opposes the monopoly and privilege of 
an organised priestly caste. Peter founded the universal priesthood of 
Christians upon this, that they offer " spiritual sacrifices, which alone are 
well pleasing to God by Jesus Christ." Evidently he recognised no others, 
he esteemed that the Eucharist also was, or ought to be, a spiritual 
sacrifice, which each Christian has the right to offer to God by Jesus 
Christ. If this is the case, all the reasons at once vanish which might 
be given by the priest for raising himself above the community of whom 
he is simply the servant. 

Apostolic Succession 

Called into being by solicitude for unity and authority in the Church, 
constituted by the notion of the priesthood, the episcopate was com- 
pleted by the theory of Apostolic Succession. But the theory followed, 
not preceded, the establishment of the episcopate. It is always thus with 
political institutions. They must have existed in fact before anyone could 
dream of justifying them in law. The Capets already held the crown 
of France when their lawyers and theologians devised the theory of divine 

M Pet. ii. 4, 5; Rev. v. 10. 

'Justin Martyr, "Dial. adv. Tryph.," 116; Irenaeus, IV. 8, 3; Tertullian, "De 
Exhort. Cast." 


right in order to settle it upon their heads and those of their descendants. 
Apostolic succession is the theory of the divine and supernatural legit- 
imacy of the power of the bishops. 

This theory, which appears at the close of the second century, was the 
work of the juristic genius of Rome. How could the episcopal authority, 
already universally established, be raised above attacks from without 
and discussions from within? Neither the idea of a mere historic tradi- 
tion, ever subject to criticism and reason, nor that of a governmental 
authority emanating from the community itself, and deriving all its 
rights from the consent of the Christian people, could suffice to maintain 
order, prevent schisms, and banish heresy. The power of the govern- 
ment, and of those who exercised it, must be put above and outside of the 
judgment of the Church itself, and for that there was only one solution: 
to show that it was a question of supernatural power, not derived from 
the will of the Church, but received from heaven by official transmission, 
legal, uninterrupted, from God to Christ, from Christ to the apostles, 
from the apostles to the bishops and their successors. 

A prince who is destined to reign enters the dynasty by birth. En- 
trance into the episcopal dynasty is by ordination. 

This legal transmission of a power of divine origin is in both cases a 
monstrous historic fiction, but in both cases also, it is not the fiction that 
establishes the power, it is the power already established that gives rise 
to and accounts for the fiction. The dogma of apostolical succession did 
not make the bishops, the bishops made the dogma. Thus all returns into 
the natural order of things, and the mystery is explained. 

Authentic history mentions no example of a bishop consecrated b}' an 
apostle, and to whom an apostle might have transmitted by this institu- 
tion either the totality, or a part of his powers. For this there are two 
equally decisive reasons : the first is that an interval of more than half a 
century separates the disappearance of the apostles from the appearance 
of the first bishop, in the Catholic sense. The second Is that In the prin- 
ciple itself bishops or deacons could not have been the continuators of 


the apostle's office, since the two orders are essentially different. The 
apostle held his mission from God, and was devoted co the work of gen- 
eral evangelisation ; he could not become the settled director of a partic- 
ular parish; no apostle was ever a deacon or a bishop. On the other 
hand, the bishops, elders, and deacons belonged to a local church, whose 
responsible functionaries they were, and upon this church they could not 
be imposed without its consent. This being the case, the precise mode 
of their nomination was of small importance. No doubt the apostle or 
founder of a church never lost his interest in it. In some cases he per- 
haps took the initiative and desigTiated those who were most worthy of 
choice, and these were confirmed by the assembly ; in others it was the 
assembly which /irst elected its elders or deacons, whom an apostle after- 
ward installed; or in still others it was the most capable and zealous 
Christians, like the household of Stephanas at Corinth, who gave them- 
selves to the work, of their own initiative took charge of the worsliip and 
common business of the church, and were confirmed in this function by 
the grateful approbation of the community. But in the last analj'^sis 
the fountain of power and the final authority remained in the full 
assembly of believers.^ 

If it had been otherwise, if the bishops had been chosen by the 
apostles, and that according to an official and invariable rite, it would 
be incomprehensible that this office of the episcopate should have been 
the cause of so many cabals and dissensions in the churches, especially 
in the early days.^ On the other hand, nothing is more natural if 
democracy was at first the rule of primitive Christianity, as everything 
demonstrates that it was. 

The apostles dead, and the original difference between the functions 
of apostle and bishop once forgotten, it is easy to perceive that men 

* Clement of Rome, 1 Cor. 54, 2. Cf. 44, 3, (ruceuSoKijcrdtrTjf r^r iKK\r}(Tlai vdffrjs. The 
right of veto, and sometimes of election, still belonged to the full assembly of 
believers in the time of Cyprian (Epist. 33, 55, 67, 60), and persisted even till the 
Middle Ages. 

^ Appendix XLIX. 


of order would have appealed to some sort of general tradition in which 
the episcopate was represented as the succession and continuation of the 
apostolate, and that they would seek to strengthen the former by all the 
distinction which the latter preserved in the eyes of the new generations. 
Even more readily will it be perceived that the attempt would have been 
made, by the end of the first century, to regularise the choice and investi- 
ture of the " elders," deacons, and " episcopoi," that they might become 
the guardians and depositaries of the true doctrine and apostolic 

But two things sufficiently prove that in the time of Clement of 
Rome and the Pastoral Epistles the theory of apostolic succession was 
not yet in existence. In the first place we have everywhere to do, not with 
a single bishop, but with several at a time, who together govern the same 
community. Therefore the Catholic bishop is not yet there. In the 
second place, it is very remarkable that Clement of Rome, not content 
to justify the functions of these episcopoi and deacons by appealing to 
a too vague apostolic institution, especially invokes the authority of 
Moses and the prophets, proving by somewhat fantastic reasoning that 
Isaiah, for instance, predicted and preordained the installation of 
bishops and deacons in the various Christian parishes.^ 

These phenomena, taken from life and studied at first hand, show 
how imaginary were the representations of the origins of the episcopate, 
made a century later. Here again the dogma has hidden history from 
all eyes. 

The second stage of this evolution is represented by the theory of 
Ignatius concerning the episcopate. This theory differed essentially 
from that which was later to triumph ; it was higher and more religious, 
but by that very fact less apt to serve in a juridical argument in the 
discussions of the time. 

^ Tit. i. 5-10; 2 Tim. ii. 1, 2; 1 Tim. v. 22, iv. 14, etc. 

= Clement of Rome, 1 Cor. 42, 5; Ibid., 43; miraculous designation of the tribe of 
Levi and the family of Aaron, according to Numbers xvii. 


The bishop of Ignatius is still a simple local bishop, if I may so 
speak; a bishop whose mission it is to realise and represent the unity of 
the parish over which he presides. This person is the hearthstone 
around which is concentrated the inner life of the community. 

In the Relevation of St. John an angel appears at the head of each 
of the seven churches of Asia, to whom the seer writes in the name of 
the Lord. This guardian angel is the very genius of each church. 
Well, the bishop of Ignatius is this angel in flesh and blood, thenceforth 
incarnated in the person of the head, who, before the world and before 
God, represents the entire community.' 

Ignatius mentally contemplates a divine and ideal type of church, 
a heavenly type which was once realised upon earth during the historic 
life of the Christ. At that moment of perfection there was a living 
centre in the Messianic community, the person of Christ ; around him 
the college of apostles, and finally, in the third rank, the circle of be- 
lievers. This was the primitive type which each distinct Christian group 
ought to try to reproduce. In the centre, the bishop who holds the place 
of Christ, or of God ; then the presbytery, which represents the apostle, 
then the assembly of Christian believers. Not the bishop, but the pres- 
bytery, is here the successor and heir of the apostolate.^ 

However high Ignatius may place the mystic personality of the 
bishop, it must not be overlooked that the community itself still re- 
mained, as in the earlier time, the basis and starting point of his eccle- 
siastical conception. So long as this is the case the bishop emerges from 
the community and is not yet essentially diff^erent from the " elders," 
above whom he stands while still belonging to them, as the elders still 
draw their life from the church which chose them and which they direct. 
The bishop is the representative of Christ and for the time stands in his 
place, but he is not the Christ ; the elders are the representatives of the 
apostles, they are not the apostles. It is the allegorical and religious 
relation of the type and the antitype, and in no respects prevents bishops 
^Rev. ii. 1 ff. * Appendix L. 


and elders from stiU belonging to the community from which they arose, 
and being, so to speak, its emanation and elect delegation. But evi- 
dently we have reached a critical moment. One step farther and all 
will be changed. 

The change will consist in this: that the bishop, instead of repre- 
senting the particular community, will become to it the representative 
and organ of the unity and the tradition of the universal Church. This 
figure of a Catholic church, inheriting the truth and guarding it against 
error, rises at this time like a lighthouse from amidst the tempest and 
confusion provoked by the unloosing of all the heresies. For this uni- 
versal church is to the local churches what the general is to the particular, 
what the whole is to the divers parts which compose it. Necessarily the 
latter are subordinated to the former. If the bishop represents Catholic 
unity and verity, the particular communities are in this unity and verity, 
they remain in communion with the universal Church, only so far as they 
are in communion with their bishop. It is by him alone that they can 
be what they are, vital parts of the whole, faithful members of the body 
of Christ. Thenceforth all former relations are utterly changed. 
Neither the bishop's origin nor his reason for being is found in his 
particular community, but in the Catholic Church, whose representa- 
tive and organ he has become toward those over whom he is set. He no 
longer depends in any degree upon his community; his community 
depends upon him. Thus for the first time we have the Catholic Church 
before us, and the evolution whose phases we have followed has reached 
its termination. 

The sense in which the theory of Ignatius was modified now becomes 
clear. For his mystical conception has been substituted a realistic con- 
ception, capable of putting upon a legal basis the right of the episcopate 
to govern the Church and decree its faith. According to it the Christ 
continues to direct the universal Church by the apostolic college. The 
tradition of the apostles founds Catholic unity. To preserve this tradi- 
tion and make it dominant the bishops must be their legitimate heirs and 


successors. Thus apostolical succession, guaranteed by official ordina- 
tion, becomes the real foundation of the authority of the bishops. The 
" elders " whom Ignatius here introduces have no business here. They 
are a subsidiary and embarrassing element, and will disappear by preteri- 
tion. The line of inheritance becomes more direct and visible, from God 
to Christ, from Christ to the apostles, from the apostles to the bishops, 
their legitimate successors. Such is the eminently practical simplifica- 
tion undergone by the episcopal theory in the middle of the second cen- 
tury, as we find it in the writings of Irenaeus, Hippolytus, and Ter- 

Three profound crises, three furious conflicts followed by three vic- 
tories, brought about this triumph and glorification of the episcopate. 

From the crisis of Gnosticism the bishop emerges all-powerful, as 
depository and custodian of the rule of faith called apostolic. He is the 
principle of Catholic unity: he judges sovereignly of the value of doc- 
trines and doctors, like the apostles themselves. 

The struggle against Montanism brings him new victories and new 
conquests. The new prophets represented the primitive liberty and 
divine inspiration. They proclaimed the reign of the Paraclete and the 
Holy Spirit. They said that the Spirit of God blows ever where it will 
and cannot be bound by the official interests of the Church. The reli- 
gious revival which they preached could not close the eyes of the bishops, 
men of order and tradition, to the danger of such a movement. In these 
free inspirations their authority encountered an obstacle and a limit. 
The new prophets were not backward in offering strong opposition to 
the administration of the bishops — their connivance with the sins and 
bad morals of the Christians of the time, their too ready absolutions, 
their complaisant relations with a corrupt world about to be consumed 
by the fires of divine wrath. Montanism was the aftermath of the spirit 
and piety of the first Christian generation, but it came too late. It 
encountered an established discipline and an organised hierarchy. The 
bishops had already brought into subjection the learned men who till 


then had been free ; they bent to their control the prophets too. To the 
monopoly of authentic tradition they added that of the true inspiration. 
Thenceforth the bishops, like the apostles whose ministry they continued, 
became the highest organs of the Spirit. That it might no longer be 
lawful or possible to oppose inspiration to established authority, inspira- 
tion was made dependent upon authority, and its channels restricted to 
the hierarchy. 

So with regard to the right to bind and to loose, the jus solvendi et 
ligandit which the rigorists denied to them, was it not a part of the 
most express attributes of the apostolate? Did not the Christ give it 
to his apostles, and therefore did it not revert to their successors the 
bishops, with all the rest of their heritage? In vain did Tertullian, 
Hippolytus, Novatian, raise indignant protests against the too com- 
plaisant practices of a Zephyrinus, a Callixtus, or a Cornelius ; they must 
therefore yield to the inevitable consequences of the principle which they 
had themselves laid down in the heat of the battle against the Gnostics. 

The Gnostic doctors being conquered, the prophets of Montanism 
excommunicated or subdued, it was the turn of the martyrs. 

They had taken advantage of the moral authority which had become 
theirs through their faith, their sufferings, and the distinction with which 
popular veneration endowed them, to encroach upon episcopal privileges, 
pardoning sins, reinstating apostles, imposing their wiU upon the priest 
and the brethren.^ It was an added check to the official monopoly of 
the episcopate opposed by individual moral authority. But it also soon 

Every remnant of opposition finally vanished in the controversies 
which convulsed the churches of Rome and Africa, especially during the 
first half of the third century, of which divers points of ecclesiastical 
discipline were by turns the object. There were reciprocal excommuni- 
cations, persistent schisms. The life of Cyprian is full of perplexities 
with regard to backsliders (lapsi), the baptism of heretics, and the pun- 
ishment of grave sins. 

^ Appendix LL 


Once again, as when confronting Montanism, the episcopate was 
forced to yield to the weight of Christian sentiment. It pronounced 
in favour of a liberal and tolerant discipline against the excessive severity 
of Novatian and his partisans, and by this accommodation retained its 
sovereignty in the Church. 

Thus by a slow and laborious progress, through conflicts and pro- 
tests numberless, these rights and graces which in the beginning were 
the inalienable possession of the entire community were accumulated and 
concentrated in a few: the right of permanent rule and final sentence, 
the right to offer the Eucharistic sacrifice to God, the gift of the Holy 
Spirit, the power of admission to the community of the brethren, and 
of expulsion therefrom. The common property of the entire body of 
believers had become the exclusive monopoly of the clergy. The Episco- 
pate, as said Hippolytus, is not only the continuation of the Apostolate, 
but the inheritor of all its supernatural endowments, maintaining its 
superior authority in living exercise in the Church through all genera- 
tions.^ The edifice is completed, the keystone of the arch has been put 
in position. Its strong framework rests secure. The genius of Rome 
was its architect, and when it builds it is for the long future.* 


The Theory of Cyprian 


The theorist of the Catholic Episcopate was Cyprian, Bishop of Car- 
thage.^ Neither Irenaeus nor Tertullian had pressed the idea to its ulti- 
mate consequences. They had made the bishops the witnesses and cus- 
todians of the tradition, but they were willing to concede to them only 
the historic mission of serving as intermediaries between the apostles 
and the churches of their day. 

With Irenjeus the teachings of the bishops still found their pattern 
' Hipp, " PhiL," Preef., 4, 52 f . » Appendix LII. » A. D. 24« to 966. 


and verification in the Holy Scriptures. Tertullian on his side pointed 
out that the bishops were not the equals of the apostles; they had not 
inherited the apostolic gifts of prophecy and inspiration, nor the gift 
of miracles, nor the power of remitting or retaining sins. Religion 
still remained ideal in its essence and transcendent in its relations to the 
hierarchy, but these were scruples cherished only by men of sufficient 
education to have some knowledge of the things of a vanished past. The 
logic of facts was soon to do away with these last obstacles. In fact 
they disappeared fifty years later in Cyprian's definitive theory. 

In this theory the bishops were not the mere historic witnesses of 
the apostolic tradition, they were themselves that tradition, alive and in 
continual exercise in the Church of God. The • apostolic college ever 
lived in the body of bishops, self -propagating, self-perpetuating, armed 
with apostolic authority, endowed with apostolic inspiration, enjoy- 
ing apostolic privileges, and, like the apostles, sovereignly distributing 
divine graces.^ The Episcopate was what it was by virtue of the Spirit 
of God, whose plenary abode it was, and who by it was manifest and 
active in the universal Church. The same Spirit individualised himself 
in each bishop and manifested himself identically in their plurality. The 
Episcopate was a supernatural organism, each member of which repro- 
duced in himself the unity and the totality of the entire body.'^ 

This being the case, no bishop is superior or inferior to another 
bishop. No one can give or receive orders from his equals. In Cj^rian's 
system there is no place for a universal bishop, for an episcopus epis- 
coporum. The highest authority in the Church can only reside in the 
assembly, the deUberative council, of all the bishops in that Christian 
and Catholic senate which is known as a council. '^ 

Nevertheless, such is the interior logic of the system that at the very 
moment when Cyprian was labouring to define and hedge it up, he him- 

' Cyprian, Epist. xxxiii. 1, Ixvi. 8, iii. 3. 

» Ibid., 73, 7, 9; 48, 3, 66, 9, etc.; Iv, 20; " De Unit. EccL," 5. 

'Idem, Epist. Iv. 17. 


self dropped into it the germ of a new evolution which should cause to 
issue from the body of bishops that head of the Episcopate, that bishop 
of bishops, from whom he was endeavouring to protect it. In fact, 
Cyprian gave this body a head. Episcopal unity has a central point, 
a focus whence emanate its rays. Thus it was in the apostolic college. 
No doubt each apostle, in himself, was what Peter was. Their privi- 
leges were the same, their authority equal. But that unity may be 
manifest it must have a centre whence to radiate. Peter was the start- 
ing-point of the unity of the Church, and, since from the beginning his 
seat had been in Rome, the Roman Church was the principal church in 
which to seek the unity of the Cathohc priesthood. Cyprian, it is true, 
understood the primacy of the bishop of Rome in a purely honourific and 
symbolic sense. It was a primus inter pares. We know with what 
vigour he checked the pretensions of Bishop Stephen, who arrogated to 
himself the right to give laws, in the name of Peter, to the other bishops 
and to the Church at large. But what availed these tardy reservations? 
They were no more than straws thrown across a current which thence- 
forth nothing could check. 

That befell Tertullian, Cyprian, and the entire African Church in 
that early age, which in our own time befell the liberal ultramontane 
school of Montalembert and Lacordaire in face of the dogma of the 
personal infallibility of the Pope. All were carried away, in spite of 
their resistance, by the irrresistible logic of the movement which they 
themselves had created, but which they were impotent either to direct 
or to restrain. 



The Formative Laxv of the Catholic Hierarchy 

The internal structure of the Catholic hierarchy has the regularity and 
symmetry of a work of nature. One might think it a gigantic phenom- 
enon of crystallisation, in which the same forms had been reproduced in 
every step of the process, from the first molecule to the entire mass. 
In the whole system a sort of rhythm reigns, and the same law explains its 
entire constitution. 

Take the initial cell, that is to say, the independent parish, the local 
church of the time of Ignatius ; you will find there the outline of a rudi- 
mentary hierarchy with its three constituent elements ; at the base, the 
Christian community ; above that the presbyterate, and, issuing from 
the presbyterate like a bud from the end of its stalk, " the bishop, who 
is to become the head of the community." In the second stage, the time 
of Cyprian, the same phenomenon is repeated in the great body of 
organised Catholicism, and a like hierarchy is in process of establishment. 
In fact, what is this great ecumenical church, if not a single vast parish 
analogous to the primitive community? What the presbyterate or the 
eldership was for the former, the body of bishops is for the latter. It 
is a great Christian Republic, having at its head a sort of Senate, of 
whom the bishops are by equal title the Conscript Fathers. Again his- 
tory will repeat itself, and that will be seen in religion which had already 
been seen in the domain of politics, when the patrician republic of Rome 
made way for the monarchy of the Caesars. 

In that plurality of bishops, all equal among themselves, external 
unity was maintained by unity of spirit, of faith, and of feeling, just 



as formerly in the presbyterate of the CathoUc churches. But Catholi- 
cism has never been content with a moral, spiritual, invisible unity. For 
it religious unity must be translated and realised in unity of ecclesiastical 
administration, in the legal subordination of its members to a visible 
head, whose function it is to give impulse and direction to the entire 
body. The same law which produced the local bishop of a parish in the 
time of Ignatius must produce the universal bishop in the ecumenical 
Church. As the first came out from the ranks of the preshyteroi to whom 
he at first belonged, to sum up in himself the presbyterate and become 
the senior of seniores, so the second came out from the body of bishops 
to become bishop of bishops, to sum up the episcopate in a single person, 
and contain in himself the soul of all Catholicism. 

This second evolution, which completed the Catholic hierarchical sys- 
tem, was infinitely longer and more stormy than the other, as it carried 
with it consequences more opposed to the true spirit of Christianity and 
more menacing to the life of modern society and the independence of 
the civil power. But the logic of the Catholic notion of the unity of 
the Church, the gradual lowering of the light and energy of conscience, 
the cataclysm in the Orient brought about by the invasion of the bar- 
barians, the organisation of the new feudal society, the diplomacy of 
Roman bishops, persisting through the centuries and under all circum- 
stances in the pursuit of a single aim, the co-operation which it found, 
now in the ambitions of princes and now in the revolts of peoples, all 
these wrought together for twelve centuries to build up and maintain 
the power, at once religious and political, of the bishops of Rome. It 
has been said that it was an empire " not less visible and palpable than 
the Republic of Venice or the Kingdom of France." In fact its history 
resembles that of all political powers, its remote and humble origin is 
of like nature, and it has had its periods of prodigious growth and its 
periods of humiliation and decline. As the Kingdom of France had its 
Clovis and Charlemagne, the papacy had its Leo I. and Gregory the 
Great. The sluggard kings of the first and second races reflect less 


shame upon them than the Popes of the ninth century, which has been 
called the age of the Roman pomocracy. 

And as France was well-nigh shipwrecked in the Hundred Years' 
War, so the papacy well-nigh perished during the " captivity of Baby- 
lon." It is the same succession of victories and defeats, the same play 
of concurrent forces, and this being so, why should not its history be 
studied by the same methods, and explained in the same way? 

It was the entirely natural result of the movement toward concentra- 
tion which had been going on in the Church for a century, when from the 
oligarchical body of bishops in Cyprian's time a single bishop attempted 
to raise himself above the others and become the centre and head of Chris- 
tendom. That the bishop who thus suddenly became predominant should 
be he of Rome was the still more natural result of the part played in his- 
tory by the city which had conquered the world and become the metrop- 
olis of the Empire. Since Christianity was becoming the religion of the 
empire, ought not Rome to be the capital of Christendom .'' And it is en- 
tirely conceivable that the universal bishop, elevated to a pedestal formed 
by the fall of all else under the barbarian invasion, should aspire to uni- 
versal rule; that such men as Gregory VII and Innocent III should 
dream of theocracy, as it is also to be understood how this dream mis- 
carried, and how the political power of the Popes, after reaching its 
apogee, should from that point begin to weaken and decline. 

None the less is the papacy, that is, the empire held by the Bishop 
of Rome over the Western world for fifteen centuries, one of the most 
surprising phenomena of history. The fortunes of Rome in ancient 
times, and the empire of the Caesars, are much less surprising, but the 
three forms of government, Republican senate, imperial monarchy, and 
papacy, are closely interlinked, and are explained by this alliance. We 
have here nothing other than the three acts of a single drama, three 
successive periods in the amazing history of the city which, long before 
Christianity arose, was called by the people the Sacred and Eternal 



The world abides only by reason of change, and for this reason eter- 
nity is promised to no institution or social form. Untiringly does time 
raise up each and cast it down again. 

The Church, it is true, could not be content with a natural explana- 
tion of the papacy and its fortunes. She claimed divine institution and 
supernatural privileges of such a nature as would secure the chair of 
St. Peter and his successors from the common lot of all earthly thrones. 
There is nothing surprising in this claim; until the rise of government 
by popular suffrage, receiving rights and powers from the people, it was 
common to all monarchies of ancient and modern times. 

Those fables and prophecies which almost always follow the event 
are the decorations of ancient edifices, not their foundations. Legend 
follows, it does not create, established power. To maintain its theory 
the Church was unconsciously led not only to forget the real evolution of 
the facts, but also to reverse their order, and put in the first place those 
which happened last. If any one historic fact is certain it is that the 
bishop did not appear until the completion of the evolution of the pres- 
byterate, and that the Pope appeared at the close of that of the episco- 

The Vatican places the instituting of the papacy by Christ earlier 
than all the rest. According to its teaching, the institution preceded 
the Church itself by the personal choice of Peter as chief of the Apostles 
and Vicar of Christ ; so that, far from being the final term of the evolu- 
tion of primitive Christianity, the papacy, according to it, is its true 
beginning, the source whence all things originally flowed, as well for 
the apostles and bishops themselves as for the Church at large.^ The 
magic spell of dogma and the accommodating imagination of faith are 
continually leading uncritical minds into like anachronisms. It needs 
only to study the authorities in their chronological order to discover 
the true succession of events. 

* Act. Cone. Vat., " Constitutio Pastor /Eternus," of July 8, 1870. 



The Share of Rome in the Origin of the Papacy 

The epithet " Roman " has become so firmly attached to Catholicism in 
speech and opinion as to have become inseparable from it. The share 
of Rome, so large in the formation of the Catholic Church, was yet more 
decisive in the constitution of the papacy.^ 

In the first period, not the bishop, but the Church of Rome herself, 
as a Christian collectivity, represented by the council of her " elders," 
intervened in outside matters, and performed an office of assistance, 
arbitrage, and guidance toward her sister communities. Let no one say 
that it was the bishop who gave her this important function; on the 
contrary it was she who, when at last she had a bishop, gave him that 
preponderating authority over the others which he very soon began to 
exercise.^ We sa}'^ advisedly " when at last she had one," for she was a 
long time without any. There was no bishop in Rome when the Apostle 
Paul addressed to it his great Epistle in the year 58 or 59, although 
the Church was already old enough to attract general attention and to 
have more or less well organised ecclesiastical offices.'^ Nor had it one 
fifty years later, when the Roman community by the pen of Clement sent 
wise counsel and vigorous exhortations to that of Corinth.* 

The letter of Ignatius to the Romans and the first revelations of 
Hermas, recorded in the " Pastor," bear witness that in the reign of 
Trajan and the early years of Hadrian the Church of Rome was still liv- 
ing under presbyterial rule.^ What, then, gave it that influence and au- 
thority of which it was already possessed.? 

' Vide supra, the chapter on the Church. 

= The letter of Clement of Rome is anonymous ; it is the Church of Rome writing 
to that of Corinth. In like manner Ignatius writes to the Roman community without 
making the slightest mention of the bishop, whether in the superscription or the body 
of the letter. 

' Rom. 1. 1, 6, xii. 4, 9. 

* Clement of Rome, 1 Cor. i. 44, etc. 

" Ignatius, " Epist. ad Rom.," entire; Hermas, " Pastor," Vis. ii. 2, 4, iii. 9; Mand. xi. 


The fact is self -explicable. Only those need be surprised by it, and 
seek for miracle or mystery to account for it, who are unable to picture 
to themselves, or can only vaguely imagine, the social condition of the 
world under the Antonines, the part played* in it by Rome, the sacro- 
sanct city, the trammels of political, economic, and moral subordination 
by which even the remotest parts of the empire were bound to this all- 
powerful centre. Reduced to the condition of provinces by the habit 
of long obedience, all the nationalities of the empire looked for their law, 
their rights, to the city upon the Seven Hills. Rome was then at the 
apogee of her greatness. How should not her prestige, her authority, 
her power of attraction, have passed from the political to the religious 
order .-* 

The Church modelled her forms and her organisation on those of 
the empire. The logic of social phenomena is the same in all do- 

Representatives of all the peoples of the world flocked to Rome. It 
was an epitome of the empire. Christians of every race, from Orient 
and Occident, met there in the communion of the same worship, and this 
medley, this agglomeration, made this Church, as it were, the nucleus 
and summary of all Christendom. She alone had this ecumenical char- 
acter, and while all the others were shut up in a more or less circum- 
scribed region, she had ties and uninterrupted relations with all parts 
of the universe. 

In addition she was much more considerable by the number of her 
members, wealth, and influence, and she generously put all her resources 
at the service of the other churches. Since Jerusalem was gone, what 
other city could have contended with her for pre-eminence? As Rome 
was the political capital of the empire, so was the Church of Rome the 
religious capital of Christendom. A marvellous spirit of government 
animated her, and seemed hereditary in her. She was considered as the 
elder sister of the other communities. Elder sisters naturally feel 
maternal anxieties and take on maternal ways. They hold themselves 


responsible for the younger and weaker members of the family; they 
easily arrogate to themselves the right of guardianship and direction. 
Rome apprehended this mission from the beginning, accepted it, and 
accomplished it in a manner as admirable as it was touching. To do 
this she had only to obey the inspiration of Christian love and the senti- 
ment of fraternal unity. Dionysius of Corinth, writing to the Romans 
in the reign of Marcus Aurelius, bears the noble testimony which the 
entire history of the second century confirms : " It has been your cus- 
tom from the beginning to succour your brethren in a thousand ways, and 
to sustain with your gifts a great number of distant churches, being 
zealous as you are, O Romans, thus to continue the tradition of the 
Romans, your fathers." 

At the same time it was Rome who, in the name of all Christendom, 
was carrying on the battle against Gnosticism and upholding the true 
doctrine. She was not apt to be embarrassed by speculative theories. 
Her concern was not to find arguments, but to set up barriers and impose 
laws. She gave the other churches the efficient weapon, with the secret 
of its use. In Rome the first form of the apostolic symbol was drawn 
up, and soon became the charter and the bond of Catholic orthodoxy. 
Again it was Rome who put an end to the vacillations and controversies 
of the Eastern churches touching the canonical books, and determined 
the almost final form of the New Testament collection, which had now 
become the sacred book of Christians. And finally, in Rome were 
wrought out the earliest lists of the episcopal successions and the earliest 
constitutions or rules of ecclesiastical laws.^ 

It is impossible too greatly to admire the order and energy which the 
Roman Church brought to this common work of defence, organisation, 
and propaganda. 

At the same time human weakness also appears. . The sacredness of 
the end pursued diverted attention from the character of the means em- 
ployed. The Roman genius was never troubled with scruples. Politics, 
with its ambiguities and ingenuity, early found a place in the councils 

^Appendix LIII. 

of the Church of Rome. The last quarter of the second century and 
the first half of the third were a period of incredible fecundity in legend, 
imposture, and apocryphal literature in general. Lists of bishops, 
apocryphal acts, apostolic romances, trophies of martyrs, places of pil- 
grimage, an efflorescence of marvellous talcs, an appetite for fables, an 
excessive credulity, corresponded in the Christian world with the recru- 
descence of superstition which raged in the pagan world in the time of 
Severus. Having reconciled in its convenient orthodoxy the tendencies 
of Peter and Paul, the Church of Rome was able to add the distinction 
of these two great apostolic names to that of the capital city of the 
world. This crowning work of her politics laid the foundation of her 
future ecclesiastical supremac}^, and, as Renan said, " The papacy has 
in its cradle a mythical duality far more glorious than that of Romulus 
and Remus." ^ 

Such is the pedestal which the course of things erected in advance 
for the Bishop of Rome. It was natural that the latter should inherit 
the pre-eminence which first accrued to the Church. But it was not done 
in a day. It was a sufficiently long evolution, the stages of which may 
be noted. 

At the close of the first century, in the time of Clement, there were 
as yet no bishops in Rome, simply preshyteri or hegoumenoi, among whom 
were distributed the various ecclesiastical functions. Toward the middle 
of the century the order changed. Anicetus was governing the Church 
with a truly episcopal authority. At this time the aged Polycarp of 
Smyrna made the journey to Rome to confer with Anicetus on the sub- 
ject of Easter. The churches of Asia and that of Rome followed differ- 
ing customs In the celebration of the festival, and referred back to two 
equally venerable, but contradictory, traditions. The step taken by 
Polycarp proves without gainsaying the price which the churches of 
Asia were willing to pay to remain in communion with that of Rome. 
But the fraternal and tolerant attitude of Anicetus proves no less that 
he did not deem himself to have the right or authority to impose any- 
* Renan, " Marc-Aurfele," p. 70. 


thing upon his colleagues, least of all upon the illustrious Bishop of 
Smyrna. The bishops were still upon a footing of the most perfect 
equality. Harmony could not be reached. Each maintained his right ; 
but they partook of the Communion together and the reciprocal auton- 
omy of the churches was recognised and accepted.^ 

Half a century later the same discussion recurred, but in the interval 
the claims of the Bishop of Rome had increased. Victor does not imitate 
Anicetus. He seeks to close the controversy by an act of authority. In 
194) he issues an imperious edict which " cuts off from Catholic com- 
munion and declares heretic all the churches of Asia or elsewhere who 
follow not the Roman custom in the matter of Easter." The date should 
be noted; it is the true birthday of the papacy. 

For the first time a bishop of Rome speaks with authority to the 
other bishops, and makes himself the interpreter and arbiter of the uni- 
versal Church. Victor acts in the case as universal bishop, and pro- 
claims those churches heretical which resist his authority. From this 
time everything grows simple. The note of the truth is no longer in 
the doctrine, but in the external attitude which one may take toward 
Rome. To be submissive to her is the mark of orthodoxy ; that of heresy 
is to be separated from her. 

Such a coup d'etat could not pass without a protest. Polycrates of 
Ephesus and the other bishops of Asia were not alone in repelling so 
unheard of a claim. ^ Irenasus, though he held to the Roman custom, 
condemned Victor's intolerance. In his eyes a simple question of rite 
could not justify this abuse of power nor break the unity of the 

But the way had been opened. The example given by Victor would 
be followed by his successors. We must take note of the protests that 
arose, because they demonstrate the novelty of the claims of the Bishop 

» Irenaeus, Letter to Victor in Eusebius, H. E., V. 24-, 11 ff., IV. 26, 3; and Jerome, 
" De Viris," III. 17, etc. 

"Appendix LIV. « Appendix LV. 

of Rome ; but we must also inquire why protest was doomed to be power- 
less in the long run. Those who uttered it seemed not to be aware that 
they themselves, in their theory of the episcopate, had posited the 
premisses of the thesis which later they resisted. 

If bishops are the successors of the apostles and heirs to their rights 
and privileges, is not he of Rome, who is the successor of Peter, heir also 
to his primacy? Here is a detail worth noticing. It was at this time, 
under Victor or Calixtus, that Roman exegesis for the first time applied 
to the successors of Peter the celebrated passage of Scripture, Tu es 
Petrus, and drew from it unanticipated conclusions in favour of their 
supreme authority. In vain does Tertullian indignantly protest against 
such an interpretation ; in vain, with cutting irony, does he mock at the 
pretentious and even pagan titles already paraded by the bishops of 
Rome; he has come too late; in his turn he becomes the victim of the 
too convenient theory invented by himself to close the mouths of heretics ; 
a prescriptum is issued against him.^ 

To form a just idea of the situation in Rome at the end of the second 
century, we must read in the " Philosophoumena " of Hippolytus the pic- 
ture of the ecclesiastical crisis the Church was then passing through, as 
much with regard to Christological doctrine as to discipline. It is diffi- 
cult to imagine a longer or more violent conflict than that between Hip- 
polytus and Calixtus.^ Nothing better displays both the animation and 
the futility of the oppositions encountered by the papacy at its very 

The third century was filled with conflicts evoked by the same im- 
'perious claims of the Roman bishops, now on one point, now on another. 
Episcopal equality as formulated by Cyprian was at that time the com- 
mon and consecrated doctrine of the Church. Every act of authority 
exercised by Rome was acutely felt and judged as an act of usurpation 
and tyranny. 

The most notable and significant of these conflicts was that which 
* Tertullian, " De Pudic," 1. ' Hippolytus, " Philosophoumena," ix. 


broke out about the year 250 between Stephen of Rome and Cyprian of 
Carthage on the subject of the baptism of heretics. Cyprian desired 
a friendly and peaceful solution ; Stephen insisted upon his own, by virtue 
of his prerogative as successor of Peter, and he issued a decree of excom- 
munication against all who should not submit. Cyprian taxed this pro- 
ceeding as an intolerable abuse. Two councils held at Carthage ranged 
themselves on his side. Most of the Eastern bishops, with Dionysius of 
Alexandria at their head, took a position against Stephen. It was, as 
it were, a league of almost the entire episcopate, who felt themselves 
menaced in their rights and their independence. 

Especially important is the letter of Firmilianus, bishop of Caesarea. 
Nothing more incisive has ever been written against Roman autocracy. 
" Stephen does not blush to call Cyprian a false Christian, a false apostle, 
an artisan of deceit and falsehood. With the consciousness of being 
himself all that, he takes the initiative and throws into the other's face 
falsely that which he deserves to have said of himself. . . Righteous 
indignation seizes me in the presence of such overt and manifest stupidity 
in the case of one who thus glorifies himself instead of his episcopate, 
who insists that he possesses the heritage of Peter, upon whom rest the 
foundations of the Church, when he is himself overthrowing its founda- 
tions." Addressing himself more directly to Stephen, he adds : " What 
grave sin hast thou not brought upon thy head by separating thyself 
as thou hast done from so many churches ! Deceive not thyself ; in seek- 
ing to shut out others thou hast shut thyself out. The real apostate 
is he who thus cuts himself off from the communion and unity of the 
universal Church. Thinking to excummunicate others, thou hast excom- 
municated thyself." Thus could an orthodox bishop write to his col- 
league of Rome in the times when the claims of the latter to the uni- 
versal episcopate were beginning to assert themselves.^ 

These remonstrances reveal no less the tenacity with which the bishops 
of Rome appealed to their prerogative as successors of Peter. As no 
* Among the Epistles of Cyprian, No. 75. c. 25. See, also, chaps. 2 to 6. 


one doubted the fact of this succession nor contested their inheritance, 
nothing is more matural than that men like Victor, Calixtus, Stephen, 
should have drawn from their position the practical consequences which 
redounded to the advantage, not of their persons, but of their Sees. Their 
divine delegation bound their consciences even more than it flattered their 
ambition. Their exegesis and history had neither more nor less value 
than that employed by Cyprian as the foundation of his theory of the 
episcopate. They employed it with more logic, but with no less sincerity. 
To justify this jurisdiction of a universal episcopate they could not 
rest satisfied with invoking, as concerning the other bishops, the historic 
importance of the city of Rome. They had need to find in Catholic 
tradition a more specifically Christian title to their claim. The legend 
of the Cathedra Petri, generally accredited from about this time, met 
their wish half-way. It was the fictitious title needed to justify the real 
cause of their pre-eminence. How this legend, which was the fruit and 
not the cause of the evolution of the Church, had been progressively 
formed, and how in the end it imposed itself upon the whole Catholic 
Church, a mere chronological view of the texts relating to it will show. 


The Legend of St. Peter's Chair 

At the close of the second century the legend of Peter is still far from 
being simple and uniform. It has two branches which are not only 
distinct, but contradictory ; the more or less Judaising Ebionite branch, 
represented by the curious romance of the " Clementine Homilies," and 
the orthodox Catholic branch represented by the Roman tradition, the 
theories of Irenaeus and Tertullian and the " Acta Petri et Pauli." That 
which essentially distinguishes the two traditions is the part played in them 
by the Apostle Paul, and the way in which his person and work are repre- 
sented. In the first Paul is the " enemy man," the rebellious heretic, the 


adversary of Christ, of his apostles, of Peter in particular/ He is de- 
picted and stigmatised in the lineaments of Simon the Magician, the 
father of all the heresies of the time ; and it would appear that all Peter's 
travels are undertaken only to oppose and unmask him and finally to put 
him to confusion. On the contrary, in the Catholic legend, Peter and 
Paul are in perfect harmony, they both suffer martyrdom at Rome under 
Nero, and are the object of equal veneration. Little by little, however, . 
this sort of equality ceases ; the authority of Peter gains the ascendency, 
his position is established as prince of the Apostles. Paul becomes his 
humble and docile auxiliary. The chair of Peter, established in Rome, 
becomes the centre of Christendom and the arbiter of all controversies. 

In these two legends the proportion of fiction is almost equal. Hav- 
ing the same historic starting point, they grew side by side in the service 
of opposite parties. That one triumphed over the other is because the 
interests which it served became dominant in the Church, and eventually 
became dominant in history. 

The oldest and most authentic document concerning the ti'ue relations 
of Peter and Paul is the Epistle to the Galatians, written at latest in the 
year 56 of our era. Two forms of Christianity then confronted one 
another: Jewish Christianity, with Peter, James, and John, the pillars 
of the Church, at its head, which remained strictly faithful to the Mosaic 
observances; and a Christianity of Gentile origin, the fruit of the mis- 
sions of Barnabas and Paul. Jerusalem was the capital of the first, 
Antioch the metropolis of the second. 

To restrain the zeal of certain Christians of the Pharisaic sect and 
prevent a schism, conferences were held in Jerusalem. In them Peter 
represented the " Gospel of the circumcision," Paul, that " of the uncir- 
cumcision." Harmony was maintained, but each remained faithful to 
his mission and to the method adapted to it.^ 

The mind of Peter appears to have been narrower and more timid 

^"Hom. dementis," " Ep. Petri": 6 ix^pos AvSpuwos. 6 ivriKeCfievos. 

' Acts ii. 46,ili. 1, v. 42, x, 9, xxi. 23, xxii. 12; Gal. ii. 1-9, v. 2; Acts xv. 1 ff., xiii. Iff. 


than his heart. A man of impulse, he often fell into inconsistency. He 
gave a new example of this weakness of character during a visit which 
he made at Antioch. Paul's account of it is well known : " / resisted 
him to his face," he said, " because he stood condemned. For before 
that certain men had come from James he had communicated ^ with the 
Gentile Christians ; but when they came, he drew back and separated him- 
self, fearing the circumcision. And the rest of the Jewish Christians dis- 
sembled likewise with him, insomuch that even Barnabas was carried away 
with this dissimulation. But when I saw that they walked not uprightly 
according to the truth of the Gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, 
If thou, being a Jew, livest as do the Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, 
how compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews ? " etc.^ We 
are not told what was Peter's reply, but we have one which a century later 
was attributed to him by the Ebionites. " I am the firm rock," he said, 
" the corner-stone of the Church against which thou, by resisting me, 
art in revolt. If thou wert not an enemy, thou wouldst not go about 
everywhere calumniating me. . . When thou sayest that I am to 
be blamed, thou accusest God himself who revealed his Christ to me: 
thou accusest Jesus, who called me blessed for having received this revela- 
tion. If, then, thou wilt indeed labour with me in the cause of the 
truth, first learn from us what we have learned from him, and, when 
thou hast become a disciple of the truth, then thou mayest be our co- 

Here we see what an abiding impression these conflicts made upon the 
Judaising Christians even into the second century; and how unlike the 
apostles actually were to the church-window figures by which tradition 
loves to picture them. The Epistle to the Galatians is not the sole wit- 
ness to these divergencies and disagreements. The one that bears the 
name of James, the origin of which is so obscure, brings no less emphatic 
witness to a resolute polemic against Paul and his formula of justifica- 

' So the French, and so the significance of the Greek, awfiff^up. — Tran$. 
»Gal. ii. 11 ff. 


tion by faith. The Revelation of John shows only twelve apostles, and 
seems to exclude a thirteenth. The new Jerusalem, the Church, has 
twelve gates and twelve foundations, upon which are written only the 
names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. Finally, in the way in which 
certain sayings of Jesus are brought together in the first Gospel, it is 
difficult not to feel a special point made against Paul and his doctrine, 
while Luke, on the other hand, not less evidently manifests an intention 
to obliterate all such marks and reconcile all adversaries.^ 

Yet, though there was not perfect harmony in the first age, the unity 
was never broken. Men may have parted in bad temper, but they came 
together again with pleasure. The apostles had a common basis of faith 
upon which, after the most violent storms, they still found themselves in 
agreement : the Messiahship of Jesus, behef in his resurrection, the expec- 
tation of his glorious return. In the letters to the Corinthians and 
Romans, Paul's attitude toward Peter is already most pacific. They had 
common disciples,^ and it may be said that the mass of Christian con- 
verts, unable to rest in either extreme, moved between the two and tended 
to reconcile them, whether they would or not, in a comprehensive rule 
of faith, all the more far-reaching for being without special emphasis on 
either side. This Gentile-Christian Christianity, neither Paulinian nor 
Judaising, formed the first course in the structure of Catholicism. All 
the literature to which it gave birth, Luke's writings being its master- 
pieces, tended to effect this work of common edification, of conciliation 
and peace. 

The equilibrium so accurately maintained between Peter and Paul 
in the book of the Acts of the Apostles (about the years 85 to 90), 
and which is still preserved in the short twofold notice of Clement 
of Rome, clearly reveals the dominant solicitude of the Church at the 

"James ii; Rev. xxi. 12-15; Matt. v. 19; especially the words Kal SiSd^v ovroi Toi>t 
iv0pc!)irovt. eX^xtCTOS KXijOr/fferai iv ry ^affiXeiqi tQv oipavdv. Luke xv. 12-32; xvm. 14; 
V. 1-10. 

'Tradition connects Mark and Silvanus, by turns, with Peter and with PauL 
Barnabas is the connecting link. 


close of the first century.^ Memories of the primitive period were 
already being transfigured behind the golden haze that has ever since 
modified them. The two Catholic Epistles ascribed to Peter contribute 
to the same end. The first, which is not only of a fine Paulinian inspira- 
tion, but is intimately related to the Epistles to the Romans and the 
Ephesians, appears to propose by the intermediary of Silvanus to recom- 
mend the former apostle of the circumcision, now become also an apostle 
to the Gentiles, to the Paulinian communities of Asia Minor. In return, 
Peter in his Second Epistle gives a formal certificate of orthodoxy and 
canonicity to the letters of Paul, of whom many are suspicious.* 

On the other hand, Ignatius speaks of Peter and Paul as two author- 
ities equally received by Roman Christians,^ and Dionysius of Corinth, 
oblivious of history and of all former rivalry between the two apostles 
or their partisans, represents them as the joint founders of the church 
of Corinth. 

The apocryphal " Acts of Peter and Paul," correcting the Ebionite 
legend, detach the latter from the person of Simon the Magician, make 
him the lieutenant of Peter, and picture the two as exchanging singu- 
larly artificial mutual attestations of orthodoxy and fidelity.* The work 
of reconciliation is complete by the end of the second century. Rome 
claims the glory of their martyrdom and their apostolate, from which 
the Roman Church and the bishops derive their chief title to au- 

From this time forth the legend of Peter undergoes a new develop- 
ment; it rises above that of Paul, becomes more luxuriant, and finally 
entirely dominates and overshadows it. Paul, the apostle of subjective 
inspiration and Christian liberty, is difficult to adapt to the designs of 
the ecclesiastical hierarchy. The legend of Peter, on the contrary, 

^Clement of Rome, 1 Cor. 5. In this comparison, as in that of the Acts, the 
part of Paul still remains the larger and more brilliant of the two. 

^ 1 Pet. iv. 12, especially the strange expression, wj \oyl^onai ; 2 Pet. iii. 15, 16. 

' Ad Rom. iv. 3. 

*"Acti Petri et Pauli," Tischendorfs edit., 60, 62. 


naturally became the foundation and justification of the order then in 
process of establishment. To this end, Peter is supposed to have come 
very early to Rome — as early as the reign of Claudius. Before even the 
first missions to the Gentiles had been undertaken he had chosen the cap- 
ital of the empire to be the capital of the Church. He established his 
Episcopal See in that city, and there exercised a pontificate of twenty- 
five years, one month, and nine days. He suffered martyrdom there 
under Nero, leaving his authority and privileges, with his sovereign See, 
to the bishops his legitimate successors. As early as the beginning of 
the third century he had his trophy, his commemorative monument, on 
the Vatican above the Eternal City ; that of Paul was outside the walls, 
on the road to Ostia; an illustration of the unequal esteem in which 
Catholicism holds the memory of the two apostles. 

If, with some small application of the critical method, we ask what 
actually were the relations of Peter with the first Christian community 
of Rome, we learn with surprise that they were ahnost nothing, and that 
never was there a vainer glory. The origin of Christianity in Rome is 
due neither to Peter nor to Paul; it can be traced to no known apostle, 
to no official mission. When, about the year 58, Paul wrote his great 
letter to the Romans, the Christian community had already been long in 
existence, and its faith was proclaimed throughout the whole world. 
Peter had certainly never been there. About the year 44 we find him 
in prison in Jerusalem. Five or six years later he is still in that city 
and present at the conferences then held there. A little later the Epistle 
to the Galatians informs us that he was in Antioch. He was not in Rome 
when Paul arrived there in the spring of the year 61. Nor was he there 
about the year 63, the date of the Epistle to the Philippians. If he 
went there a year or two later, if he suffered martyrdom there — which in 
all rigour we may conclude from the note of Clement of Rome and from 
the place where the First Epistle of Peter was written — it is a fact of 

*It is impossible to take seriously the commentators who find in the words, 
iiropei^n eit ^"repov rSwov of Acts xii. 18, the departure of Peter for Rome. 


detail, entirely external, which may interest the historian but which has 
no dogmatic importance. 

No connection exists between the foundation of the Church of Rome 
and the historic person of Peter; there is still less, if possible, between 
Peter and the Roman Episcopate of the subsequent age. We found, 
early in our study, one fact which dispenses us from seeking any other. 
There was no bishop, properly so-called, in Rome before the reign of 
Hadrian. The Christian community of this city came into existence 
spontaneously and was organised in all liberty. It had its elders and 
deacons, that is to say, its directing council or Senate, before the arrival 
of either Paul or Peter, and it is vain and gratuitous to imagine that 
the latter effected any change in the established order.^ 

The most mythical part of the legend is the supposed episcopate of 
Peter. No writer of the early centuries speaks of any such episcopate. 
It was still too well known that an apostle, whose mission it was to carry 
the gospel everywhere, could not consent to be bound to any particular 
place by an ecclesiastical function which was essentially sedentary. 
Therefore the ancient authors never say anything else than this : " Hav- 
ing founded the Church of Rome the apostles Peter and Paul chose and 
installed its first bishop." ^ It is not until much later, with intent to 
articulate the episcopate more closely with the apostolate, that Peter 
was admitted to the series of bishops as the first link in the mystic chain 
on which all the other links depended. 

During all these long centuries writers have not been able to come 
to an agreement as to the order of the names of the first successors of 
Peter. Nothing more clearly proves the legendary character of all 
the lists which have been drawn up, than their variations and the explana- 
tions which have been offered for them. The one which became official 
in the Catholic Church so became, not because it is more certain, but 
because ecclesiastic authority imposed it. 

In the light of these results of historic criticism let us take up again 
' Rom. xii. 6-12. * Appendix LVI. 


and study the celebrated text : " Thou art Peter, and on this rock I 
will build my church " (Matt. xvi. 18). First of all we note this inter- 
esting fact: it did not bear the meaning and dogmatic significance as- 
cribed to it by theologians of the papacy until the third century, precisely 
when the bishops of Rome found the need of it to sustain their newborn 
pretensions. Tertullian, the first to make known to us this politically 
inspired exegesis, strongly opposed it, declaring that the words of Jesus 
and the privilege they imply regard only the person of Peter and his 
part as initiator of the first apostolic preaching. It is without the 
slightest right that the Roman bishops apply it to themselves and their 
See.^ Still more independently of all polemic, Origen on his part de- 
clares that the promise of Jesus does not refer to the person of Peter, 
who a little later is called Satan, but to the fact itself of which Peter at 
that moment was the organ, and upon which the Church was founded.^ 
Finally, Cyprian finds in the apostolic primacy of Peter only a symbol 
and manifestation of the unity of the Church: the Bishop of Rome 
remains a primus inter pares.^ 

It appears, then, that at the very time when this Roman exegesis 
was being elaborated it gave to contemporaries the impression of novelty. 
Whatever may be the meaning of this much discussed text, and whatever 
honour it may reflect upon the apostle Peter, it is clear that little advan- 
tage accrues from it historically to the bishops of Rome, once it has been 
demonstrated that there is no link between themselves and Peter, none 
between Peter and Rome, and finally, as we shall see, none between Rome 
and the religious thought of Jesus. 

From a religious point of view, Rome is entirely outside of the horizon 
of Christ. He proclaimed a kingdom which was shortly to come down 
from heaven. Nothing was more contrary to his conception of the King- 
dom of God than the idea of a monarchical church modelled upon the 
laws of the empire of the Caesars, with a similar hierarchy and the same 

» Tertii4*an, " De Pudic," 21. 

» Origen, " Comm. in Mathaeum," xvi. 18, voL xii. 10, ed. of Lommatsch. 

' Appendix LVII. 


capital. He never dreamed of instituting a lieutenant or vicar to suc- 
ceed himself, and if anyone appears to have held such an office tempo- 
rarily in the Messianic communities of Palestine, while awaiting the com- 
ing of the King, it was James, the brother of the Christ according to 
the flesh, and certainly not Peter, who appears as subordinate to James, 
as well in the Epistle to the Galatians and the Acts of the Apostles 
as in the first tradition of the Ebionites/ 

Is the text Tu es Petrus, in its present form, to be attributed to Jesus? 
It is more than doubtful. It was not in that first collection of the " Logia 
of the Lord " which Luke had before him and reproduced in his Gospel. 
No more does Mark find it among the reminiscences which he collected 
from the preaching of Peter himself. The Fourth Gospel also omits it, 
and it may even be said that, perceiving it gradually forming in tradi- 
tion, the writer tried to efface it by setting the beloved disciple in oppo- 
sition to Peter. The book of Acts has nothing of it, Paul has no sus- 
picion of it. The Epistles of Peter, the Apocalypse, all the other books 
of the New Testament, are absolutely ignorant of it. It makes its 
appearance sixty years after the death of Jesus, in the last redaction of 
our Gospel of Matthew, wliich is a compilation of the diverse elements. 
It is very probable that it owes its existence to an inspiration of Judais- 
ing or Ebionite circles, who, after the death of James, desired to oppose 
Peter's authority to that of Paul. It is the development and transfor- 
mation in oral tradition of words doubtless spoken by Jesus on the occa- 
sion of the change of Simon's name to Cephas. Here we discover the 
humble source of the legend of Peter, and from this point we can follow 
it down the course of history, easily tracing its entire development. 


First Age of the Papacy — Grandeur and Decadence 

Having found the first and effective cause of their pre-eminence in the 

political importance of the city of Rome, the Roman bishops discovered 

'Appendix LVIII. 


that the divine consecration and assured pledge of their future fortune 
were equally enfolded in the legend of Peter. Heirs of a twofold an- 
tiquity, the past and present glories of the one, the future promises of 
the other, gave them a natural right to pre-eminence among all other 
bishops. The rapid conversion of the subjects of the empire exalted 
ever higher their episcopal throne, which promised soon to stand on a 
level with the throne of the Csesars, until the day when, in the West at 
least, it should occupy its place. 

Such a destiny can appear marvellous and supernatural only to those 
who are incapable of keeping in mind the historic causes which contrib- 
uted to it. The character and ability of the bishops of Rome, the con- 
troversies which rent the Church, and in which with consummate pru- 
dence they took part only as arbiters and judges of last resort, the series 
of catastrophies which caused the downfall of the Western Empire and 
left the civil power vacant, the rise of the barbarian princes, the venera- 
tion of the new peoples who had received from Rome the benefits at once 
of civilisation and of the faith, all these contributed to the formation 
of a new power, and the triumph of a religious policy inspired by pro- 
found faith, which through many centuries and many vicissitudes never 
knew failure. 

Notwithstanding the obscurity which half envelops them, we may 
say that the early bishops of Rome were men eminent in ability and prac- 
tical sense. They seem to have succeeded one another in office only to 
follow one another to martyrdom. The uniformity of their policy was 
no less admirable than that of their virtues. While all around them was 
in decline and decay, their power alone increased unintermittently. It 
was the one centre of attraction and unity. Its religious character 
protected it from any individual moral weakness, and it may even be 
said that it profited as much by the violences and intrigues of the ambi- 
tious as by the virtues of the saints. For from the beginning the Roman 
See was occupied by men of both these characters. Witness that Calix- 
tus whom the Romans canonised, and whose adventurous career has 


recently been made known by another saint, the author of the " Philo- 
sophoumena." What fraud had first secured, popular credulity made 
sacred and inviolable. 

The conversion of Constantine, which would seem likely to enhance 
the power of the bishops of Rome, had, in fact, the opposite result. 
Becoming the head of the Church, he proposed to rule it. It was the 
Christian emperors, not the Popes of that period, who decided the 
Catholic faith. Addressing himself to the bishops, Constantine assumed 
the manner of a bishop. He called himself exterior bishop, instituted by 
God like the others. Thus, like his pagan predecessors, he united in his 
person the rights of emperor and of sovereign pontiff. Every other 
bishop must yield precedence to him. It was Constantine who convoked 
the Council of Nicsea ; he formally opened it and approved and sanctioned 
its discussions. His successors followed his example. Never was the 
office of bishop of such small dignity nor his person more overshadowed.* 

It was the custom of the Oriental church to fix the rank and measure 
the authority of the episcopal sees according to the political importance 
of the cities in which they were established. The Occidentals, on the 
contrary, looked first of all to their apostolic origin and the authority of 
the apostles who had instituted them. Thus the two could never agree. 
After the founding of Constantinople the Councils of Chalcedony and of 
Constantinople decided that the bishop of the new Rome had the same 
authority as he of the old capital, leaving to the latter a purely hon- 
orary primacy. Rome protested against these decisions, but the East 
always maintained them. Schism was looming up in the future." 

It became inevitable with the division of the empire. The unity of 
the Church had been modelled upon that of the empire of the Caesars, 
which united all people in one body subject to its law. But from the 

'Eusebius, "Vita Const.," IV. 24, I. 44; Mansi, VI. p. 733; Gieseler, I., part 2, 
p. 181; "Cod. Theod.," XVI. 1, 2; Socrates, "Hist. Eccl.," IV., proem. 

"Council of Nicaea, Can. 6; Council of Chalcedony, Can. 17, and especially Can. 
28. The Council of Constantinople, in 381, Can. 3, decided for the same equality 
between the old and the new Rome. (Vide Mansi, vol. VII. p. 369.) 


fourth century two worlds were being formed, differing more and more 
in genius, language, social customs, and interests. The ancient Roman 
unity was about to be shattered ; its reflection, the unity of the Church, 
could not long survive it. 

Dogmatic dissensions were not the real cause of the rupture. Behind 
these dissensions a social evolution was obscurely taking place, which was 
to determine the future of the Christian world as of the political. It 
is easy to see that with two empires there would be two Churches, each 
claiming to be orthodox and Catholic. Here was the obstacle to the 
dream of a universal episcopate, so dear to Rome ; and to our own days 
it has not yet been overcome. 

That which limited and weakened the authority of the bishops of 
Rome in the East had the effect of strengthening and aggrandising it 
in the West. Rome was the only see in that part of the world which 
dated back to the apostles. From her Africa, Gaul, Spain, and later 
Britain and Germany received the Christian faith. The only security 
for the orthodoxy of the churches of these provinces was in their com- 
munion with the Roman Church. The bishops of Rome applied them- 
selves to draw ever more closely the ties which gratitude and respect had 
first knitted, and every day saw them more successful. In those times 
of confusion and distress their intervention was often invoked. The 
Council of Sardis in 349 recognised that bishops condemned in their own 
provinces had a right to appeal to him of Rome, and that the latter could 
judge or cause judgment to be given in final appeal.^ Such is the origin 
of the custom of appeal to the court of Rome. Than it, nothing more 
efficiently contributed to extend the Roman jurisdiction and give to 
the Bishop of Rome, at least in the West, the appearance and authority 
of a universal bishop. 

At this juncture appeared in the See of Rome a man of extraordinary 
virtue, eloquence, and, above all, political genius. Leo the Great (440 
to 462) begins the series of those grand papal figures who must be ranked 
with the founders of dynasties and leaders of nations. He was, in fact, 

* Appendix LIX. 


the first Pope in history and the true founder of the papacy/ In the 
first place, it was he who defined the theory, that is, the fundamental 
dogma, of the papacy, and gave it its final formula ; ^ in the next, he 
displayed an incomparable energy of will, clearness of vision, eloquence 
and diplomacy in transferring theory into fact. By the favour of 
events, it seemed for a moment that he might realise his dream, and he 
certainly would have done so had success been possible.^ Finally, in the 
political order, in view of the invasion of the barbarians and the collapse 
of the Empire and institutions, he saw how to bring the newborn papacy 
before the eyes of a panic-stricken people as the only method of salva- 
tion, the sole power capable of protecting them. No doubt it is a legend 
which shows Attila, the scourge of God, recoiling before Leo I, who came 
to him in pontifical robes bearing the flaming sword of St. Peter. But 
this legend none the less expresses with striking truth the confidence of 
the nation and the mission of protection and salvation, which, in the uni- 
versal distress, was intrusted to the Church and its head. The van- 
quished peoples crowded around the Holy See like sheep having no shep- 
herd, and the barbarians stopped short with a sort of religious terror 
before ceremonies which appealed to their imagination, and a mysterious 
power against whom their victorious swords were powerless ; they found 
it more profitable to gain over this power to approve of their conquests 
than to persecute and destroy it. Thus began the long political activity 
of the Popes, and the theocratic idea was bom. 

For a brief time the victories of Justinian brought the bishops of 
Rome once again under tutelage, but this did not last long.* They found 
in the kingdom of the Franks, then rising to eminence in Gaul, both a 
fulcrum arid a weapon by which they might by one act free themselves 
from the overlordship of Constantinople and the tyranny of the Arian 
Goths, or later of the Lombards. 

* Appendix LX, * Appendix LXI. 

' He obtained from Valentinian III. an imperial law by which the authority of 
tlie Bishop of Rome over all the Western Churches was formally established. 

* Appendix LXII. 


The alliance became still closer between the family of Charles Martel 
and the papacy. Pepin and Charlemagne needed the Pope to consecrate 
their usurpation of the throne : the Pope needed them in order to become 
an independent sovereign. He gave his benediction and received in ex- 
change that which has ever since been known as " the patrimony of St. 

We must here note the second step in the progress of the theocratic 
idea, latent in the very institution of the papacy. In the year 800, on 
Christmas Day, in the basilica of St. Peter, Pope Leo HI placed the 
imperial crown upon the head of the prince of the Franks, amidst the 
plaudits of the populace, who cried " Long live the emperor Charles 
Augustus, whom God himself has crowned! " Not only did the Pope 
thus annihilate the pretensions of the Greek emperors of the East, not 
only did the Roman Pontiff take the attitude of one who held the crown 
of the Csesars to confer it upon him who had restored the Empire, but 
also and above all he stood before the Catholic world as the representa- 
tive of God, like another Samuel, deposing Saul, crowning David, and 
possessing the theocratic right to make and unmake kings. The more 
glorious the power of the new emperor, the more it contributed to exalt 
the Pope, who seemed to have bestowed it upon him. 

Another and a more obscure event no less served the cause of the 
papacy. This was the successive appearance of several collections of 
letters or decrees of former bishops of Rome, of which the most celebrated 
were the false Decretals of the Pseudo-Isidore. A dominant characteris- 
tic of this period is the tendency to consider all rehgious questions as 
questions of canon law, and to settle them by appeal to ancient authorities 
which had fixed the rule to be followed and the solution to be adopted 
in all cases. This series of documents was devised to establish and enrich 
this jurisprudence; most of them were apocryphal or falsified, attributed 
to ancient Popes from Clement of Rome to Damasus, and constituting 
the most colossal and barefaced fraud of which history has to tell. 
By it the sovereign intervention of the papacy in diocesan affairs, its 


most extravagant pretensions, its most recently assumed privileges, were 
confirmed and justified as the constant teaching of the Church from the 
beginning. The entire policy of the Popes of the Middle Ages was in- 
spired by these documents ; they found in them a support which no one 
could call in question, an inexhaustible arsenal and a venerable authority 
before which all resistance was vain.^ A curious history might be written 
of the falsifications made in the interests of the papacy all through its 
history. Authentic documents were interpolated, false ones fabricated. 
The writings of the most celebrated of the Fathers were not more re- 
spected than the acts of Councils. " Nowhere have there been more bare- 
faced falsifications and lies than in this domain," wrote the aged canon 
DoUinger in holy wrath. Let us restrain our indignation. These pious 
falsifiers unquestionably acted in all good conscience. Respect for truth 
is a modern virtue, the child of historic criticism. Violence, subterfuge 
and falsehood have always had their part in the founding and triumph 
of dynasties. Why should we not find them in that of the papacy ? 

In another respect the papacy is no exception to the general rule of 
human authorities. All enduring dynasties have their weak kings and 
infamous princes. The history of the French monarchy brings the wit- 
ness of the last of the Merovingians and the Valois. The papacy has 
had its reasons for shame as for glory, its unworthy members and its 
great men. The great pontificate of Gregory VII was preceded by a 
period of more than a century, branded with the name of the Pomocracy, 
during which courtesans disposed of the tiara, and a child of twelve, 
eaten up with vices, occupied the seat of Gregory I and Louis the Great. 
After Benedict IX and John XV Hildebrand fortunately arose, just as 
Henry IV, Richelieu, and Louis XIV followed Charles IX and Henry 
III; were it otherwise no institution would be enduring. 

The papacy triumphed over its humiliation and trials, because its 
roots were sunk deep in the religious faith of the peoples, and after every 
crisis it drew fresh vigour therefrom. In those times, when the feudal 
system was founding a new governing principle upon the triumph of 

^Appendix LXIII. 


brute force, the Church alone represented intellectual and moral power, 
the principle of justice and charity. The prevailing ascetic and sacer- 
dotal conception of Christianity inspired a general sense of a radical 
opposition between the natural life and the supernatural life, the flesh and 
the soul, the clergy and the people, the convent and the world, the Church 
and the State. The dogma of the natural corruption of the human race 
made the divine help of the priest everywhere necessary. In this an- 
tagonism of a lost world and a redeeming Church, the Church naturally 
assumed and claimed a mission to guide and govern. God had put into 
her hands the guardianship of the peoples, and as the Roman pontiff 
was the vicar of Jesus Christ, the princes of the earth, equally with the 
people, owed her the submission due to Divinity. 

It was not in vain that at this time an ascetic, not to say a monk, 
was raised up to be the reformer of the clergy and the restorer of the 
theocracy. The dream of Hildebrand was a mystic dream. In the reli- 
gious life he had learned the strange new secret, born of Christianity, of 
how to conquer the world by renunciation, to gain wealth by the vow of 
poverty, and to secure absolute power by the profession of extreme 
humility.* But there was this fatal contradiction: when the monastic 
life by its virtues had succeeded in dominating the age, the latter on its 
part entered the monastery with its wealth and corrupted it. It is the 
vicious circle in which every theocracy is lost. The method might be the 
best if worked out by angels ; in human hands it became the worst.^ 

At the beginning of the thirteenth century the dream of Gregory 
seemed about to be fulfilled. In Innocent III the papacy dominated 
Europe, it disposed of the crowns of kings and the consciences of 
peoples. This triumph was of short duration; with the next century 
everything was transformed. Scholasticism completed its glorious evolu- 
tion and fell in ruins under the criticism of nominalism. The national 

' Appendix LXIV. 

' See the bitter criticisms, the grieved complaints, the impious satires of the Middle 
Ages, provoked by the clerical life, and calling for a reform in the Church from its 
head to its members. 


sentiment awoke, the moral and ecclesiastical horizon broadened, the world 
entered upon new paths. Boniface III put forward the same pretensions 
as his predecessors, but he was powerless to maintain them. He died 
from the humiliation of Anagni. From this moment we rapidly descend 
the farther slope of the mountain. The theocracy has been. Four 
great crises mark this decline, each ending in a new defeat of papal pre- 
tensions. The first is the struggle of Boniface VIII against Philip the 
Fair with the States-General of France at his back. It ended in the 
emancipation of the royal power and the humiliation of the papacy, rent 
with intestine dissensions and captive at Avignon. Two centuries later 
it was the Reformation, which, invoked for three centuries by the most 
notable voices in the Church, at last broke forth in tempest at the voice 
of Luther, proclaimed the autonomy of the Christian conscience, and 
detached half Europe from the Church. Still later, the French Revolu- 
tion swept away the divine right of the Middle Ages in the name of 
modern law and the sovereignty of the people, and completed the 
threefold secularisation of political power, of civil life, and of human 

Finally, in our own day, it is the foundation of the new kingdom of 
Italy, crowned by the entrance of the Italians into Rome in 1870 and 
the retreat of the Pope into the Vatican. The States of the Church, 
created by politics, are swept away by politics after a thousand years. 
Memorable date in history, striking demonstration made by the very force 
of things, that nothing here is immutable, that is to say, immortal ! 

In these crises the papacy assuredly did not die, but it was trans- 
formed. Having ceased to be a power in the political order, it became 
a dogma in the religious order. It remains to consider it under this last 



The Infallible Pope 

It will be interesting to seek the precise moment when the personal infal- 
libility of the Roman bishop made its first appearance in history. 

We are at once led to the initial reflection that at the present time 
the infallibility of the Pope makes his authority: formerly it was his 
authority that made his infallibihty. It is with the dogma of infalli- 
bility as with the theory of the divine right of kings. Divine right never 
founded a kingdom nor established any dynasty, but the kingdom once 
founded and the dynasty established, divine right appeared to consecrate 
and protect both. 

The degree of infallibility accorded to the Pope has always been pro- 
portioned to the measure of authority which he had acquired and exer- 
cised. When his authority became absolute, his infallibility became 
entire. He who could arrogate to himself the sovereign right to com- 
mand the conscience could not be conceived of as erring. This is why 
the idea of infallibility dates from the Middle Ages and the theocratic 
pontificate of Gregory VII. Thomas Aquinas is the first among the I 
Doctors who brought it forward as an article of Catholic theology. 

It is easy to explain its genesis. Since the third century, by virtue 
of the saying of Christ that his Church shall never fail, it has been a 
dogma of the Catholic faith that the truth always and of necessity 
resides in the authentic tradition of the Church and the legitimate suc- 
cession of the bishops. By them the apostolic teachings were trans- 
mitted, continued, guaranteed, and always exempt from error. Now in 
the West Rome alone could boast of having an episcopal see of apostolic 
origin. It was universally lauded as the faithful guardian of the sacred 
deposit of tradition. It became an axiom that to be orthodox one must 
be in accord with Rome. From this point the movement is evident. 
Infallibility, which had been the attribute of the one universal Church, 


became with the lapse of time concentrated in the Church of Rome, and 
thence passed finally to its bishop. When the Pope was held as the head 
and mouthpiece of the Church, how could infallibility be expressed by any 
other head or any other lips? Must not he who, in his own person, sums 
up the entire Church, possess all its attributes and exercise all authoritj"^ 
in its name? 

This perfectly logical system was the work of centuries. The ancient 
order did not foresee it, the Scriptures show no trace of it. The early 
bishops of Rome have no suspicion of it.^ Originally, Jerusalem, An- 
tioch, Alexandria, Ephesus, and Corinth vaunted themselves as apostolic 
sees. These churches found in their several traditions the same doctrinal 
guaranty which Rome found in its own. Therefore they were always 
persistent in maintaining their independence. Their bishops always 
claimed to be peers of their colleagues of Rome, praising them warmly 
or blaming them with the greatest freedom, according as they seemed 
worthy of praise or blame. Paul vigorously reprimands Peter at An- 
tioch. Ignatius commands the fidelity of the Romans ; Anicetus earns 
the gratitude of the churches for his position with regard to Polycarp. 
On the other hand, Victor, by his insolence, brings upon himself the cen- 
sure of Irenseus and the protests of all the Eastern bishops. St. Hip- 
polytus exposes and stigmatises the intrigues of Calixtus, TertulHan 
rallies him upon the ambitious and pagan titles with which he adorns 
himself. When Stephen of Rome excommunicated Cyprian, Firmilian, 
the other bishops, and the synods of Carthage make reply that Stephen 
has simply excommunicated himself. These are not isolated facts ; they 
form the tissue of the inner life of the Church during long centuries. In 
fact, the one thing which is absolutely lacking is the idea of the personal 
infallibility of any bishop soever. 

If this belief had then existed, the history of the Church during the 
first thousand years of its existence would have been entirely different. 
Starting from the hypothesis of a Pope with the sovereign and universal 

authority of a Pius IX or a Leo XIII officiating at Rome from the 

» Appendix LXV. 


beginning, the entire early ages become absolutely unintelligible. The 
groping attempts of second-century Catholicity to constitute itself an 
organised Church, the general attitude of the bishops, the episcopal 
system of Cyprian, the interminable dogmatic controversies, the convo- 
cation and the conduct of councils, the rivalries of the great metropolises 
of Christianity, the late birth of Roman legends, and finally, the schism 
which definitively separated the orthodox and Catholic East from the 
Western Church, when at last the papacy had been constituted, are alike 
inexplicable. No ; the sovereign power of the bishops of Rome was not 
constituted from the beginning ; it was slowly formed and developed by 
the most laborious of evolutions. 

By his genius and the favour of circumstances, Leo I won the victory 
for Catholic orthodoxy in the East and at the Council of Chalcedony, and 
in the contest between the Monophysites and the Nestorians he appeared 
like a second Athanasius ; but more than one of those who preceded and 
followed him in the Roman See gravely compromised its authority and 
were stamped with solemn disapproval. St. Hippolytus formally accused 
Calixtus of heresy, and no apology could wash him from that stain ; ^ 
Liberius (352-366) twice signed a semi-Arian confession and abandoned 
the cause of Athanasius ^ that he might return from exile and rescue 
his seat from his rival, Felix; Vigilius (537-555) stands convicted of 
using dogmatic duplicity to gain the episcopal throne as well as of incon- 
stancy and infidelity.' Finally, the most celebrated of all on the hst 
of heretical bishops or popes, Honorius I (625-638), was anathematised 
by the Ecumenical Councils and afterward by his successors in the 
papacy, who each by turn, on entering upon office, pronounced him 

To tell the truth, such sentences surprised no one at that time because 
no one had yet any idea of the personal infallibility of the Bishop of 
Rome. It began to germinate with the entirely unforeseen extension of 

» " Philosophoumena," ix. 11. ' Appendix LXVI. 

» Appendix LXVII. * Appendix LXVIII.. 


the papal power, especially after the appearance of the " False De- 
cretals," ^ In the tenth century the Popes were despised, but not the 
papacy. With Gregory VII the Pope became the vicar of God, and the 
bishops merely the vicars of the Pope.^ The latter held in custody all 
the legislative power of the Church to such a point that the Councils 
had merely advisory power. Even more: the Pope is the master of the 
religious law which he promulgates; it binds others, but it never binds 
him.' Gregory claimed entire and perfect holiness as well as infalli- 
bility as the head of the Church, if not in his own person, as Bishop of 
Rome ; and he was right when we consider that sin never fails to obscure 
the moral sense.* But this claim never prevailed. It was too strongly 
contradicted by the lives of certain Popes. The very idea of infal- 
libility was still so foreign to the Church in general that in his contro- 
versies with Boniface VIII Philip the Fair was not afraid to summon the 
Pope before a Council General to be judged and condemned as demoniac 
and heretic, because of his errors, his vices, and liis senseless pretensions, 
which were visibly inspired by the devil. None the less was the thesis of 
papal infallibility put forward, with the arguments by which it finally 
prevailed, in the bull of this pontiff, Unam Sanctam, which has become 
the charter of the power of the Roman Curia. ^ Thomas Aquinas, de- 
ceived by false Greek documents which had lately been added to the 
earlier ones, lent his great authority to the support of this doctrine, as 
has already been said.*" 

It would seem as if the doctrine must have succumbed before the long 
scandal exhibited by the papacy during the period called the Captivity 
of Babylon, when two or even three Popes were claimants of the tiara, 
and no one could tell which was the true successor of Peter. Extraordi- 
nary things were done at the Council of Constance. Two Popes were 

' Appendix I.XIX. = Appendix LXX. * Appendix LXXI. 

" Gregory " Dictat." 23. " Quod romanus Pontifex si canonice fuerit ordinatus 
meritis B. Petri efficitur sanctus." Logic will have it so, but history ! 

"Appendix LXXII. "Appendix LXXIII. 


cited to appear, were judged and deposed: a third was elected. Never 
was situation more curious than the attitude of the Roman Curia before 
this council. Was it or was it not an ecumenical council acting with 
authority ? To recognise it as such is to recognise the council as superior 
to the papacy, as to all other dignitaries of the Church. To deny it 
is to invahdate the election of Pope Martin V, and by that act to create 
a vacancy in the apostolic chair; it is to raise a doubt as to the legiti- 
macy of the cardinals created by this Pope, and in consequence, of all 
the Popes elected since that time. The conception of a religious 
authority, regularly transmissible like an extrinsic right, is a fine thing. 
But history makes strange breaches in it which not all the subsequent 
canonists can avail to repair. 

The fifteenth-century councils having shown themselves as impotent 
to reform the Church as to save it from anarchy, a reaction in favour 
of the papacy set in. In the general disorder a fixed point, a centre of 
authority, was essential. It was easy for the Roman canonists to per- 
suade political authorities that this point of resistance could be nowhere 
else but in Rome. Heads of States lightly sacrificed the franchises of 
national churches.^ The papacy knitted together the broken threads of 
its tradition and resimied all the pretensions of the great Popes of the 
Middle Ages." 

Thenceforth the Popes, without explicitly claiming infallibility, 
adopted the policy of acting in all things as if it was theirs, letting no 
expression of a contrary opinion pass without disapproval. They could 
not prevent the Council of Trent, but they so arranged things that their 
authority should be neither checked nor restricted. The Council let pass 
without protest the bull by which Pius IV arrogated to himself the right 
to apply its decisions. The Popes summoned to the Court of Rome all 
important discussions and ecclesiastical causes. Thus they accustomed 
people and kings to see in them the final tribunal from which there was 

'Francis I in 1517 yielded to the Pope the Pragmatic Sanction of Charles VII. 
* Bulls of Pius II, " Execrabilis " (1459), and Leo X, "Pastor ^ternus" (1516). 


no appeal, the judge of all controversy, the supreme oracle of the 

The last opposition in the Church was that offered by Gallicanism, 
which came to the front in 1682 in four declarations of the clergy of 
France, inspired by Bossuet and supported by Louis XIV. The papacy 
made haste to pass censure upon them, and its diplomacy, making the 
most of the weakness and hesitancy of an aged and timorous king, found 
it easy to reduce them to the category of Platonic aspirations and dead 
letters. In the far-famed Company of Jesus Rome had gained an incom- 
parable army, which from the sixteenth century made the cause of 
authority its own. The final triumph of infalhbihty is the real triumph 
of Jesuitism in the Church. 

It has sometimes, but mistakenly, been said that the true head of the 
Church was the general of the Jesuits. The correct statement is that 
since the proclamation of the new dogma the entire hierarchy has become 
a Company of Jesus, of which the Pope is general. 

Everything indeed for two hundred years past has contributed to 
the last triumph of the papacy ; as much the oppositions of its adver- 
saries as the zeal and cleverness of its partisans; the French Revolu- 
tion, uprooting the clergy of France from their native soil; Napoleon 
by his concordat giving over the parish priests to episcopal absolutism, 
and putting the bishops into the hands of the Pope.^ Even the liberal 
Catholics, strangely blind, taking sides with the papacy against Gallican 
liberties and the civil power, laboured no less efficaciously for the triumph 
of the Vatican dogma than the writers of the pure theocratic school, from 
Joseph de Maistre to Louis Veuillot. 

By 1850 the issue of the struggle was no longer doubtful. To put 

his power to a sort of test, Pius IX, having consulted the bishops by 

personal letters, decreed the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of the 

Virgin Mary upon his own authority.^ The indifference with which the 

' Taine, " Les origines de la France conteraporaine," V. 

^A. Ri^ville, " Encycl. des sc. relig., art, "Conception Immacul^e"; E. Chastet, 
" Hist, du Christ." V., p. 171. 


Church accepted this cowp d'etat was a sign of the times, A Council 
General might be convoked, but it would find nothing to do but to abdi- 
cate in favour of the Pope, and confirm in law that which existed in fact. 
The resistance of the minority was as brilliant as it was vain. The end 
toward which the papal power had long and perseveringly laboured could 
not but come to pass.^ 

That the papacy should thus reach a sort of apotheosis is marvellous 
but not miraculous. Every stage in it from the beginning is logical, and 
linked together as in the history of great empires. The same tendency 
which forced the bishop up from the ranks of the presbyters of the 
apostolic age brought the papacy forth from the episcopate. Dominated 
by the political necessity of manifesting its unity in a visible organ, 
ready to sacrifice everything for this pagan idol, the Church naturally 
came to substitute a concrete person for the abstract unity of the bishops 
and to change its former aristocratic and parliamentary rule into an 
absolute monarchy. Thus the republic of patrician Rome became the 
empire of the Caesars. All the powers and privileges of the Church were 
concentrated in one single head. He who had been merely the servitor 
was now the master. Theocracy, driven from the civil order, was realised 
in the religious order. As the fountain of dogma and priesthood, of 
sacramental grace and canonical law, the Pope now verily appears to 
decile consciences as the representative of God on earth. 

But, oh, irony of human things ! The end of it all is that this quasi- 
divine power, in exalting itself, has destroyed its sure foundation, and 
henceforth rests only upon itself, that is to say, upon its own affirmation, 
with no possible justification either in history or in reason. As Canon 
Dollinger said : " It is all very simple. The Catholic believer will say, 
' I believe in the infallible Pope because the Pope has said that he is in- 
fallible.' " In fact, that is the whole story. The papacy created itself, 
and then kept itself alive by devouring all the rest — authority of bishops, 
authority of councils, authority of tradition, authority of the Church. 
The papacy has shattered all, annulled them all. Its power is henceforth 

» Appendix LXIV. 


simply a power of fact, exposed, like every other fact, to the hazards of 
history. History brought it into being, history explains it, history will 
do away with it. 

In fact, it needs nothing else than history to cause that which the 
dying Montalembert called " the Vatican idol " to totter upon its pedestal 
of clay. But these inescapable revelations are of further portent. They 
bring out two facts into a startling light. First, the personal infalli- 
bility of the Pope is a religious fiction, invented for the maintenance of 
an outworn political system. Second, the Ecumenical Council, by giving 
its sanction to this fiction as divine, demonstrates by this very fact that 
the infallibility of councils is as fictitious as that of Popes. In truth, 
if the Pope is not infallible, no more is the council which declares him so. 
But what, in its turn, becomes of the infallibility of the Church, with 
no organ for its expression? Thus the system of Catholic authority 
breaks down in the middle, succumbing under the weight of the conse- 
quences of its first principle. 

The apologists, therefore, are working at cross-purposes. The more 
they succeed (no difficult matter) in showing that the dogma of infalli- 
bility is the logical conclusion of the premisses of Catholicism, the more 
they constrain independent minds to go back and revise the premisses. 


The Future of the Papacy 

The papacy will doubtless last a good while longer. We are not con- 
cerned to calculate how long. Our work is that of the historian, not 
of the prophet. We would simply try to determine the new conditions 
of existence to which she must henceforth accommodate hei*self. 

Those who observe the course of human events, being accustomed to 
trace the succession of all living organisms in nature, and in history that 
of empires, institutions, and all forms of society, find that a pretty poor 
argument which consists in saying, " The papacy has lasted fifteen cen- 


turies, therefore it is eternal." It is almost as if we should say of a 
robust old man, " He has lived for eighty years, therefore he will live 
forever." What are fifteen centuries in the infinite series of ages? Time 
carries away or modifies everything to which it gives birth, and the 
papacy will be no exception. A thousand historical causes in the reli- 
gious, social, and philanthropic order gradually brought about its tri- 
umph; causes of the same nature are everywhere at work, if not to 
destroy, at least to transform it. It was one thing in ancient days, 
another in the Middle Ages, another in modern times ; it will be another 
in the future. Its destiny depends upon its gift of self-adaptation to 
the necessities of modern times. It will live so long as it retains this gift ; 
when it is exhausted that will happen which happens to every institution : 
it will have lived. 

In the later centuries of its history we note a curious rhythm of 
contradictory effects, a sort of inevitable law by which every victory, 
every access of power achieved in the Church by the papacy, corresponds 
to a defeat, a diminution of influence in the State, in the order of 
thought, and of the secular life. The same year wliich saw the dog- 
matic apotheosis of the Pope in Rome, saw also the disappearance of the 
last vestiges of his temporal sovereignty. A pendulum movement at 
once exalts the Pontiff and annuls the Prince. 

The double phenomenon is produced by one and the same cause. The 
theocratic principle, the principle of supernatural authority, which made 
it aU-powerful in the religious order, at the same time revealed it as a 
perpetual menace to the independence of civil powers and the liberty of 
nations. The schismatic peoples, whose moral and religious life is inde- 
pendent, have felt no need of any intimate and official relations with 
Rome. Those which have remained Catholic are always in conflict with 
her, consuming their strength in controversies as interminable as sterile. 

By the Syllabus of 1864, the papacy declared war upon freedom of 
thought and modern civilisation. Here stand face to face two tend- 
encies, two irreconcilable principles. The principle of modem culture 


is the autonomy of the reason and the conscience, and consequently of 
peoples and their governments, as well as of philosophy, art, and science. 
This principle asserts itself in the progressive secularisation of institu- 
tions and laws, by the enfranchisement of the human mind from priestly 
and so-called supernatural tutelage. We have eliminated the super- 
natural from science and philosophy ; little by little we shall eliminate it 
from politics and social life. But what is modem papacy speaking and 
commanding in the name of God himself, if not the supernatural operat- 
ing before our eyes on a single point upon this planet, while all around 
it goes on the free and irresistible expansion of all human aspirations and 
potentialities .'' 

But, it may be asked, may not this variance, or if you please, this 
antagonism cease? Is a reconciliation impossible? 

At this point a school presents itself, as lavish as it is apt in fallacy, 
which says that we must distinguish between the principle of modem 
civilisation and its errors or evil fruits. The Church does not condemn 
the first, but only the others. After all, civilisation is of Christian origin ; 
it is Christian by its aspirations, its respect for law, its desire for equal- 
ity, its longing for fraternal solidarity. Why should this hostility last 
forever? Naturally the Church does not accept liberty of conscience, 
the equality of all citizens and all opinions before the law, as religious 
dogmas, but she adopts them as principles of civil and natural order. 
She herself demands only the common right and seeks to conquer only 
by persuasion. It is optional to accept the truth which she teaches ; all 
she asks is liberty to preach it. 

Would to Heaven that this school were right ! But let us trace the 
consequences of this theory and method of freedom. Henceforth the 
Catholic Church lays aside its age-long claim to dominate the civil power 
and dictate its laws. Like every other religious or philosophical society 
she places herself in the field of the common right of free discussion and 
competition. She will content herself with being the most ancient as well 
as the most considerable of the Churches ; she will suffer without a mur- 


mur the existence of dissident churches at her side. She will gain them 
to herself only by the force of being right. But what does all this sig- 
nify if not that she consents to make reason and the conscience sovereign 
judges of religious opinion, and by that act yields the exterior principle 
of supernatural authority and legitimacy? What does it signify, in- 
deed, if not an admission that the dogma of Rome is nothing more than 
one of many different opinions, equally subject to the tests of criticism; 
in short, that she is nothing other than one more sect, or if that word 
offends, one of a thousand forms of historic Christianity, between which 
we are free to choose? 

The papacy is far indeed from views such as these. For her to accept 
them would be to abdicate. Instinct alone must warn her that the tend- 
ency of all liberal Catholicism at bottom implies the negation of the 
principle upon which the entire Papal system rests. For this reason she 
permits not one of these liberal conceits to pass without excessive censure. 
From the tentative of Lamennais to the Americanism of Father Hecker, 
the experiment has had but one solution. Popes may change, but the 
attitude of the papacy remains the same. To be surprised at this is to 
show ignorance of the conditions. The theocratic idea is the very essence 
of the papacy. 

The great strength of this system of government lies in this: that 
men confuse with it the Church itself, and identify the Church with reli- 
gion. How many intelligent minds still imagine that the downfall of 
the papal system would carry with it that of the Christian Church and 
even of all religion ! It is true that partisans of the theocracy do all in 
their power to create and perpetuate this illusion. But they are doing 
precisely what the advocates of royalty did when, identifying France 
with monarchy by divine right, they maintained that the overthrow of 
the latter would be the destruction of the former. The throne of Louis 
XIV has been destroyed, but with liberty France has entered upon a new 
course. So it would be with religion, if the theocratic form which is 
still dominant in Cathohc nations were abolished. Is religion indeed any 


less intense and efficient among these peoples which no longer receive their 
rule of faith and morals from Rome? 

But, it is urged, does not Catholicism make conquests and conversions ? 
May it not extend itself indefinitely by its missions among Protestant 
peoples, schismatic Orientals, and races still pagan? Why should not 
the papacy even yet restore the moral and religious unity of the world? 
To discuss partial successes and far-distant hopes serves no real end. 
The conquests of Catholicism, were they as real as they are illusory, would 
no more prove her supernatural claims to be true than those of Islamism 
in Africa, for example, would demonstrate the truth of Mohammed's 
revelations. The apparent successes of any religious form simply bring 
to light a certain momentary correspondence between the form and the 
moral and political condition of the social environment in which it has 
gained a place. To the intelligent mind there is no common measure 
between the truth of a thesis and the welcome which it may at any time 
receive. The truth of the religious question is not a question of major- 
ities. It did not need that the words of Jesus in Galilee should be 
received with acclamation by the entire nation before distressed and 
burdened consciences could receive them as divine truth. The dream of 
universal dominion cherished by certain conquerors was far less chimerical 
than that indulged in by the Popes of effecting a unity of minds under 
an absolute theocratic monarchy. Minds are less easily bent than bodies. 
If, by impossibility, all the peoples of the earth should one day enter 
the pale of the Roman Church, without question they would bring with 
them their characters, their temperaments, their tendencies ; and the new 
empire would no sooner be formed than its inevitable dismemberment 
would at once begin. 

To return to the actual present. The papacy maintains its claims, 
but it cannot change the conditions of life which this reality imposes 
upon it. 

Having become a dogma, the papacy has ceased to be any other than 
a metaphysical power. No doubt it is still surrounded with a halo of 


distinction, and its spiritual action weighs heavily in those councils where 
the policies of all governments are decided. But the very character of 
the diplomacy to which the Holy See must resort in order to exercise it 
proves with evidence how greatly the times have changed since Gregory 
VII and Innocent III. 

Compare the conduct of these great Popes and the relations of Leo 
XIII with the German Emperor, who stands in the place of the unhappy 
Henry IV, or with Queen Victoria, who occupied the throne of John 
Lackland. The weapon of excommunication, once all-powerful, is now 
shattered. The Roman thunderbolt is silenced, and will never again call 
any sovereign to Canossa. 

The problem of the papacy becomes every day more restricted. The 
Pope remains in Rome, and such is his position that he is no longer king, 
and he cannot be subject. The condition strikingly illustrates the nature 
of his authority everywhere. In every modern nation the Roman 
Catholic Church is confronted with civil and political laws which she can 
neither attack nor sincerely accept. She is inexorably set between ad- 
hesion and abdication. Unable to bring herself to accept either alterna- 
tive, she resigns herself to the situation under protest. 

The same distress is hers in the domain of thought. The theology 
of authority must either forbid philosophical discussion or accept it. In 
the first case it is self-excluded from the arena in which at the present 
day all living opinions freely struggle and make their way, and in that 
case it wins from modern science only a disdainful neglect. In the second 
case it is bound to own the universal jurisdiction of the reason, and 
thenceforth its dogma, stripped of all exterior and supernatural author- 
ity, is merely one solution among many others, of the problems now occu- 
pying natural science, the history of religions, and philosophy in general. 

Now, if the Catholic dogma is ever put into the crucible of scientific 
discussion, it will not come out just as it went in. That will happen 
to it which has happened to all systems, even the noblest and best. It 
will come out transformed. This is to say, that it will descend, that it 


has already descended, from the region of the absolute and the super- 
natural to the uncertain course of human ideas and things. Its sub- 
stance may survive, its form will necessarily be renewed. 

Such is the power of things ; such is the law of liistory. In vain 
does the papacy stiffen itself against the current; it is the product of 
historic evolution, and in its turn must yield to it. In vain does it appeal 
to supernatural rights and promises of eternity. Criticism applies itself 
to the texts which it invokes, and discovers their futility or their apocry- 
phal character. As the succession and continuation of the empire of the 
CsBsars, it has no surer warrant than had that empire itself against final 
decomposition. Not less did the Romans of the Augustan age doubt the 
eternity of their domination of the world. They foresaw neither the 
partition of their empire nor the formation of rival nations in the East, 
giving opportunity for the invasion of the barbarians, nor did they dream 
of the new forces, like Islam, which Asia was already brooding in her 
mysterious womb. In their world-conquering pride they applied to 
themselves the oracles of Jupiter, which obliging mythology, reflecting 
their political ambition, had accumulated around the cradle of their race. 

His ego nee metas rerum nee tempora pono; 
Imperium sine fine dedi. . . 

Is it possible for a critical mind to lend greater faith to the more 
recent mythology with which the papacy has veiled its origin .'' Have its 
institution by Christ and the chain of apostolical succession more reality 
than the genealogy by which the blood of ^Eiieas was traced in the family 
of the Caesars? Such poetic garlands hung on the front of the engine 
which moves the train adorn it to the eyes and imagination, but they do 
not make the steam which from within sets it in motion, nor are they 
supposed to do so. A few more revolutions of the wheels toward the 
unknown future, and the face of the world will be renewed. The Catholic 
form of the Church had its history, its greatness, its efficacy, in the 
past. Other forms are being secretly prepared which will unfold in 


their turn, to respond to new needs and render to future ages services no 
less necessary. 

There are two factors in Roman Catholicism: a profound and noble 
religion, a vital sap of Christian life, a fountain of mystic uplift and 
heroic devotion never to be forgotten by those souls which have been 
renewed and invigorated by it. By this piety they were bom anew into 
the higher ideal life of duty and love. But there is also an absolute gov- 
ernment, a hierarchy which oppresses the conscience, which is the enemy 
of all free and spontaneous inspiration, fettering the thought in outworn 
dogmas and the moral life in puerile exercises of devotion. It is a mis- 
take to believe that the vigour of the first of these elements depends upon 
the stability of the second. That is a delusion. Let one analyse his own 
feelings and consult history, and he will see that faith came before ortho- 
doxy and piety before the priesthood; that the hierarchy depends upon 
religion, and not religion upon the hierarchy. 

The modern world can neither endure the one nor do without the 
other. In vain are the two presented to it as an indivisible whole, which 
must be taken or left in entirety. Time is the great critic; it decom- 
poses the firmest rocks ; it transforms the most unyielding institutions. 
It will find a way to dissolve the Catholic amalgam and set free all that 
is vital, while casting away all that is only a survival of the past. 

Likewise, in the Catholic dogma of authority, it is proper to distin- 
guish between the principle of natural and legitimate authority spon- 
taneously created in every society, religious or other, which is enduring 
and has a mission to accomplish, and the dogmatic theory by which, under 
pretext of strengthening it, authority is supernaturalised and made abso- 
lute. Beginning as less than an infant, an embryo, every man comes in 
contact with and should bless the society which nurtured, educated, and 
brought him to manhood. Who would wish to deny that in the beginning 
of the Middle Ages the Catholic Church was a strong and admirable 
schoolmistress, that her action was potent, her authority uncontested, so 
long as her mission was not accomplished.'* But let none forget that even 


in education it is the* truth which makes authority, not the contrary. 
The teacher does not create the truth ; he should lead to it. His instruc- 
tion must make itself understood and accepted by the reason and the 
conscience which early awakes in the soul of the child. If it is convicted 
of falsehood, it loses all authority in the eyes of the most docile pupil. 
Which is to say that there is in man a sense which perceives the truth, 
and a norm by which to recognise and test it. In moral things the man 
breaks away from the tutelage of authority and rises to the autonomy 
of his own conscience. This is why all authorities are relative, and must 
be modified with time if they are to be maintained. 

The Roman Catholic Church has not thus understood it. She has 
thought to save her authority by investing it with the supernatural ; she 
has killed it. A supernatural authority in the exterior order necessarily 
becomes first a political authority, and afterward an oppressive authority 
It tends to subordinate truth to itself, instead of devoting itself to truth. 
It is no longer the servant of the truth ; it wills to be its mistress, and 
even believes itself to have created the truth. It demands submission 
before having convinced its pupil. Its word alone is truth, not because 
it is evident, but because it is its own. The same supernatural elemen': 
stiffens the system of authority, exaggerates it, and forbids its reforma- 
tion. How could it be infallible if it could ever need reformation? 
Unable to follow the development of the mind, it is fatally in opposition 
to it. The forms of authority which are suited to humanity in its in- 
fancy and minority are exasperating to an adult and enlightened human- 
ity. Thus revolt becomes inevitable. A conflict breaks out between 
the conscience and tradition, and its sole possible issue, in the religious 
order, is Protestantism. 





The Reformation and Humanism 

Nothing is more frivolous or less historical than to consider the Reforma- 
tion of the sixteenth century as an accident caused by monkish quarrels 
or the political rivalries of princes. It can be understood only on two 
conditions : first, that of penetrating to its intimate relations with the 
general evolution of mind at that epoch, an evolution which made pos- 
sible this attempt at reformation ; and second, that of grasping the 
religious principle, at once old and new, which made it an irresistible 

Why did that Reformation of the Church, which had been so often 
attempted in vain by many pious souls and heroic workers in the Middle 
Ages finally succeed in at least half of Europe with Luther, Zwingli, and 
Calvin ? It is to be explained only by the general complicity which their 
enterprise met in the new spiritual and moral tendencies of the time, and 
the mighty response which their protest everywhere awakened in the most 
enlightened and religious souls. Why does the little seed, dropped by 
the sower in the beginning of winter, after slumbering beneath the snow- 
covered and frost-hardened earth, suddenly awake and press upward, a 
vigorous plant, when the air becomes more clement.? The season has 
changed, the sun is a few degrees higher above the horizon, and the face 
of the earth is made new. 

Thus the seasons of history succeed one another by the continued 



evolution of minds. But never was the change more evident than on 
the eve of the Reformation, in that age justly named the Renascence, 
In those days the larks were everywhere singing to the sky and hailing 
the rising sun. Everywhere activity reigned, ardent, free, joyful, like 
that which on spring mornings awakes in the hives of bees and the homes 
of men. *' O new age ! " cries Ulrich von Hiitten, " study is flourishing, 
minds are awaking, it is a joy to live! " 

Yet we should not look upon the Middle Ages as a period of darkness 
and death. As its name well indicates, it was a period of transition be- 
tween the old time and the new. Nothing was more necessary nor more 
fruitful for the souls of the western nations than this long, severe disci- 
pline. By it their energy of thought and will was tempered. It is said 
that the races who inhabit the fortunate isles, in climes that have no 
winter, lack also vigour of character. 

Since the awakening that marked the Carolingian epoch, activity of 
mind and the love of study had been interruptedly growing and extend- 
ing. Scholasticism, though by itself sterile, like all philosophy and 
science based on authority, had none the less equipped the human reason 
for a more fruitful labour. With the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries 
it began to turn from abstractions, empty of reality, to observ^e the phe- 
nomena of nature. The notion of the universe was enlarging. The 
discovery of America had stirred imagination and thought to new activ- 
ity. Inventions of every kind, like that of printing, radically changed 
the general conditions of existence, and inspired in the human mind the 
idea of endless progress. Finally, the study of the literature of former 
times, revived after the fall of Constantinople by the diffusion of ancient 
manuscripts and of Greek teachers through the western world, gave the 
finishing touch to the growing distaste for the old formalism, and 
ravished men's minds with a new ideal of learning, a new sense of beauty. 
If it is true that all the functions of the soul are fundamentally one, and 
that the religion of a people, at least in its forms, must always depend 
upon the degree of their general culture, how should a Church which so 


visibly wore the rust of the Middle Ages escape this movement of uni- 
versal transformation ? 

Here, however, we must beware of misapprehension, nor must we con- 
found the favourable conditions which made a religious reformation pos- 
sible with the ^ause, or the force, which brought it about. The cause was 
not in humanism. Humanism was a matter of aesthetic taste and high 
intellectual curiosity, but it had neither religious or moral quality, nor 
Christian character, nor had it any desire to carry on a popular aposto- 
late of reformation. Enthusiasm for classic antiquity lay at a lower 
level than the gospel, and led directly to the paganism of Rome and 

Humanism was the foe of scholasticism, whose vain formalism and 
absurd pretensions it unmercifully satirised ; but in its moral apathy and 
its conceit of aristocratic and Epicurean learning it could accommodate 
itself far more easily to sacerdotal tyranny, content with external respect, 
than to the storms and dangers of a revolution. If we would know how 
little it possessed of the reforming spirit we must study it in Italy, where, 
from the middle of the fifteenth century. Popes and cardinals had been 
the most zealous patrons of art and ancient letters, unscrupulously asso- 
ciating the largest freedom of morals and the most easy-going unbelief 
with the most jealous concern for their own authority and the most 
rigorous support of the old ecclesiastical system. Leo X was Pope of 
the Christian Church very much as Augustus had been Supreme Pontiff 
of the old Roman religion. Superstition suited the people, and elegant 
incredulity the intellectual class. Such a social separation, with the 
hypocrisy which follows in its train, was the necessary result of 

Not from without, nor by the action of a foreign and heterogeneous 
impulse, could the reformation of the Church be effected. It must spring 
from the bosom of the Church itself. Religion can indeed be reformed 
neither by artificial grafting nor by the theoretical processes of rational 
criticism. When it cannot draw new forms from its own fundamental 


principle it is a proof that the root is withered, and the tree has nothing 
to do but die. It was not thus with the Christianity of the Middle Ages. 

We must distinguish between Christianity and the Church. There 
is certainly room for surprise that the state of corruption into which the 
latter had fallen had not resulted in so enervating the entire Christian 
life as to leave it impotent. But the truth is, that while the disorders, 
vices, and superstitions of the Church had extinguished the religious 
sentiment in some, it had contrariwise exalted and strengthened it in 
others. The moral worthlessness of a great proportion of the clergj', 
the vanity of ritual forms, the religious mercantilism, alike failing to 
minister to the religious need, made it only the more profoundly and 
vividly felt. True and sincere piety, forced to abandon the exterior in- 
stitution and official representatives of religion, of necessity learned to 
distinguish the inward from the outward, the essential from the acces- 
sory, the soul from the body of religion. It fell back upon itself, recov- 
ered its grasp of the inward virtue of its ideal principle, and gained a 
clearer consciousness of its transcendent spirituality, its independence of 
traditional forms, outward institutions, and human mediations between 
God and the conscience. Thus all through the Middle Ages a curious 
phenomenon was taking place which we cannot too carefully study; as 
the Church morally declined, papacy, priests, and monks more openly 
scandalising the people by their morals, their politics, and their frankly 
pagan life, in the same degree the Christian spirit grew inwardly 
stronger, mystic piety unfolded in the shade to such a degree that per- 
haps never did either appear to be richer in vital sap, more spiritually 
free and detached from the official organism, than in the period which 
preceded the Reformation. 

The contrast, growing daily more flagrant, must of necessity at last 
become active opposition. The disquietude of Christendom grew greater 
day by day. Religious need, unsatisfied in the traditional order, cried 
out for a new order of things. The plaint of pious souls became uni- 
versal. From all sides arose a demand for the reformation of the Church 


in head and members, and when all hopes proved vain, when Popes, coun- 
cils, clergy, princes, showed themselves incapable of keeping their prom- 
ises and even hostile to the universal desire, a revolution was inevitable. 

Inflammable matter was everywhere, scattered or concentrated, in the 
convents, the country parishes, the universities, in the closets of the 
learned, the courts of kings, the castles of the nobles, the corporations 
of burghers and of artisans. It needed only that a few strong individ- 
ualities, concentrating in themselves the spirit and needs of the time, 
should arise and lift up their voices, and instantly, from north to south, 
a thousand incendiary centres would burst into flame, and the long sup- 
pressed fire would overrun every province and enwrap all society in its 
blaze. There is no other way to explain the sudden and prodigious influ- 
ence of Luther in Germany, of Zwingli in Switzerland, of Farel and 
Calvin in the lands of the French tongue. By the response which their 
voices awakened we may judge of the impatience with which they had 
been awaited. 

The success of the Reformation is explained by the intimate harmony 
between the general tendency of the time and the strong religious indi- 
vidualities who then came to the front. Without the almost universal 
co-operation of the people the sixteenth-century Reformation would have 
been as impotent as those which preceded it; but without their indi- 
vidual religious inspiration, their strength of soul, their genius for 
apostleship, the general tendency of the time would have remained sterile. 

It is a law of the moral and religious life that no progress, no renewal, 
can take place except by means of great individualities in whom the new 
ideal is incarnated and made visible. Prophets and apostles are necessary 
to God in his work. To raise them up at the propitious hour is his secret. 
" The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the voice thereof, 
but knowest not whence it cometh and whither it goeth." Luther belongs 
to the family of religious initiators, of men greatly inspired. He has 
the inspiration and eloquence of the prophets of Israel. The work which 
the prophets accomplished in developing a moral religion and universal 


monotheism from the monolatry of the ancient Hebrews entered upon a 
new stage when Luther and his fellow-refonners caused the rehgion of 
the Spirit and of Uberty to burst into bloom from the stock of Catholic 
legahsm and formahty. 

We might carry the parallel farther, but we have said enough to 
enable the reader to perceive the distance that separates the humanist 
from the reformer — Erasmus from Luther. The criticism of Erasmus 
is penetrating ; his scorn of abuses, disorders, ignorance, cuts deep, but 
from the religious point of view his entire action is sterile, because it is 
purely negative, and the humanist always ends by resigning himself and 
accommodating himself to that which he can indeed ridicule, but which 
he neither knows how to destroy or to modify. The reformer, on the 
contrary, uproots and replants ; he ploughs and sows ; words of life fall 
from his lips ; a creative breath not his own breathes from his breast, 
makes souls to live, and brings into being a new world. " Erasmus," 
said Luther, " did that to which he was called: he introduced the ancient 
languages, he awakened a distaste for unwholesome studies. But once 
again, with Moses, the leader dies in the plains of Moab. His merit was 
assuredly great ; he pointed out and arraigned evil ; but to make manifest 
the good and lead his people into the promised land, this was beyond 
his power." ^ 


Originality of the Reformation Principle 

It is no question of theory which underlies the Refonnation, but a 
moral and thoroughly practical question ; the ardent desire for inward 
righteousness and peace with God. We know the moral agonies of 
Luther in the monastery at Erfurt; he asked for only one thing; pardon 
of sin and peace of conscience. 

The question was resolved for him, as for Saul of Tarsus, by the 
»" Letter of Luther to GEcolampadius," 1523. 


pure and simple gospel, by the promise of a free pardon given by Christ 
to repentance and faith; that is, to the confidence of the child in the 
Heavenly Father's love. On this side, the principle of the Reformation 
is by no means original or new. It is the primitive creating principle 
of Christianity itself. 

How, then, did this principle become a new and even a revolutionary 
principle? "-- 

In Catholicism it had been singularly allied with surviving elements 
both of antique paganism and of Judaism. Yet more, it had identifud 
itself with the very body of the Church in which it had first been realiser'. 

This identification of the idea and the external fact is the essentiil 
characteristic of Catholicism. Thus the ideal principle of the religion 
of the Spirit was enchained and imprisoned in the forms, the rites, the 
hierarchical organisation of the Church, of which it was the inward life 
and efficacy. Christian faith had been transformed into obedient ad- 
herence to the visible Church, and participation in divine grace into par- 
ticipation in the sacraments. The priest had become the necessary 
mediator, his absolution had taken the place of the absolution of God, 
as the decisions of the Pope had been substituted for the inspiration of 
Christ. But Luther had learned by experience that this external insti- 
tution of salvation, far from giving peace to the burdened and troubled 
heart, left it the more empty and despairing. He had found salvation 
in ignoring the institution and entering into personal, direct, and imme- 
diate relations with the Master of souls and the Author of life and grace. 
Was not this already the imphcit condemnation of the whole system of 
human absolution, sanctimonious practices, and hierarchical pretensions ? 

In other quarters the deep discredit, the violent disdain with which 
churchmen and the institution itself had come to be regarded, constrained 
serious souls to seek peace and life outside of official systems and estab- 
lished traditions. It had become necessary to learn, willingly or unwill- 
ingly, how to distinguish the body from the soul of religion, the accessory 
from the essential. From that moment the Christian spirit began to 

free itself from the bonds with which so-called divine jurisprudence had 
fettered it ; to escape from prison and regain its independence. 

The ideal principle of Christianity was rediscovering its ideality, 
asserting itself with a new consciousness of its divine transcendence; it 
was purifying itself from the foreign elements which still oppressed it, 
manifesting itself in its moral absolutism, its spiritual purity, as an 
entirely new life-principle which might well create new theologies, forms, 
religious societies, without being exhausted or absorbed by any one of 
them. After such a triumph over the past, the strictly religious and 
moral principle of Protestantism appeared to be actually susceptible of 
indefinite development. Here again we have nothing essentially new; 
that which was new in the sixteenth century was the consciousness which 
Christendom then gained of the vital principle of Christianity, of its 
purely moral essence, and its absolute independence of all historic delimi- 
tations and realisations through which it had passed and might pass yet 
again ; it was the incorporation of the Christian principle in the moral 
and religious consciousness of humanity. 

In the Catholic system, Christianity had been so externalised as to 
become a law or rite, a body politic. In Protestantism it was interiorised 
in the soul itself, and became once more an immanent moral force, the 
very spirit of holiness, love, and life. In the filrst case it engendered 
servitude, in the second it brought forth liberty. 

Luther neither foresaw nor desired all the consequences of the prin- 
ciple which he introduced into the world. Trained in Middle-Age scho- 
lasticism, he was never entirely set free from it. To the daring intuitions 
of the prophet the man of tradition brought many a fear and many a 
repentance. For that matter, no principle in the practical moral order, 
whose consequences must be developed by life, not logic, can be revealed in 
all its significance at the very first. When he entered upon his preaching 
work Christ did not attack the Mosaic institutions nor change the reli- 
gious habits of his disciples. He dropped the living seed into the earth 
and left to time the duty of making it germinate and ripen. It is none the 


less true that in bringing religion back to inward faith, and theology 
to Christian experience, Luther did justify the permanent criticism of 
ceremonial and dogma, and for all time shattered the system of authority, 
at least in religion. 

If he had completely succeeded in his work, Christendom in its entirety 
would have been set in a new path, and how different would have been the 
history of Europe ! But revolutions are never effected without conflicts 
and ruptures. The Church became divided in itself. . Instead of one 
Church there are two, wliich, living in perpetual conflict, have developed 
two forms of Christianity, two historic Christendoms, which without 
ceasing to be related have become none the less mutually irreconcilable. 

Though in perpetual conflict, the two societies have none the less 
mutually interacted. The action has indeed been twofold. In the first 
place, Catholicism opened itself to the Protestant spirit, and the Catholic 
spirit reappeared in Protestantism. In the next, the two principles, 
by the unceasing violence of their impact, arrived each at its final logical 
expression ; the principle of authority at infallibility concentrated in the 
person of the Pope : the Protestant principle at the autonomy of the 
Christian conscience. 

It was impossible that the Church of the Middle Ages should con- 
tinue to be after the Reformation that which she had been before. The 
crisis was salutary for her, revealing her latent energies. Those abuses 
and disorders which till then she had been unable to correct have in 
part been done away. The Council of Trent revived her discipline and 
reduced to something like order the chaos of her doctrines, traditions, 
and customs. Thence came the Catholic revival of the seventeenth cen- 
tury. The two most noble forms which Catholicism has ever known, the 
Jansenism of Port Royal and the Gallicanism of Bossuet, were in reality 
semi-Protestantism. For that reason, notwithstanding ardent contro- 
versies, it seemed for a moment to the greatest spirits of the time that a 
reconciliation and even a union of the two confessions might be possible. 
But the old principle could not abdicate. The Jesuits took it up and 


developed it with a logic till then unknown. Jansenism and Gallicanism 
were eliminated, and are to-day mere heresies. 

On the other hand, the Catholic spirit survived in the Protestant 
churches. Not only was the dogmatic tradition of the councils and the 
Middle Ages maintained, but no one entertained a doubt that an infallible 
external authority was necessary. The attempt was made to constitute 
it by the dogma of the infallibility of the Scriptures, and upon this 
foundation to build up an authoritative theology. Thus, immediately 
after the death of the Reformers, supervened that singular period which 
has been justly named the Protestant Scholasticism. It was Catholicism 
transposed. Nothing less than the rise of criticism, the ardour of 
pietism, and the triumph of rational methods, could avail to put an end 
to this period and bring Protestantism back into the current of its natural 

The Reformation forever disorganised the old system of authority. 
That system rested upon two pillars : the Holy Scriptures and tradition ; 
the clash of Catholic and Protestant polemics destroyed them both. In 
the name of Scripture the Protestants overthrew the authority of tradi- 
tion; in the name of tradition the Catholics well-nigh annulled the Scrip- 
tures. Without tradition the Scriptures are without external support, 
i and cannot become a dogma ; they remain simply historic documents sub- 
' ject to the appreciation and interpretation of the individual reason. 

The Protestant dogma of authority never had, nor could have, the 
simplicity, the plenitude, the efficacy of the Catholic dogma. For 
Protestantism to undertake to constitute such a dogma is a pure incon- 
sistency. The Protestant churches do not believe themselves infallible; 
how, then, can they constitute an infallible canon of sacred books, or bor- 
row such a canon without the slightest criticism from the tradition of 
I another church, a thousand times convicted of error? A basis for doc- 
" trinal government can be drawn from the Bible only by drawing from it 
a confession of faith. Shall«this confession of faith infallibly rule the 
interpretation of the Bible.'* We are then in very Catholicism. Or 


shall the Christian remain free to appeal from the Confession of Faith 
to the Scriptures? Then the latter is subject to the individual reason; 
it is the prime source of Christian knowledge, an incomparable means of 
edification, but it is no longer an infallible and tyrannical authority. 
On the contrary, it has become the bulwark of Christian liberty. 

The dogma of the infallibility of the Scriptures was therefore by 
no means primitive in Protestantism. The Reformation knew nothing 
of it in the early days. We shall explain its genesis and relate its his- 
tory. But first it behoves us to ascertain what was the attitude of the 
Reformers toward the traditional Bible. 


The Bible and the Reformers 

The Reformers did not begin by forming a theory of the Bible and its 
authority, thence afterward to deduce their particular doctrines. Not 
only did they have no need to do so, since the authority of the Bible was 
strongly established and recognised by the ancient Church before their 
day, but furthermore, as we have seen, their initial method was anything 
but scholastic. They proceeded, not by the way of external authority, 
but by way of inward experience. Theology had become a system of 
jurisprudence; they brought it back into the moral sphere. 

Nor did they discuss with their opponents, at least in the beginning, 
the question what authority may lawfully promulgate dogmas. For 
them the question was, What is the true, authentic Christianity, that 
which gives peace, regenerates, and saves? Was the Christianity of the 
church that of Christ and his apostles? To resolve this question the 
Reformers resorted to the original texts of the biblical books, just as the 
humanists were setting themselves to research and the study of the ancient 
works in order to discover the true classic antiquity and give a clear and 
vivid impression of it. The Reformers retraced the turbid course of the 
Christian stream to its source, and there quenched their thirst for right- 


eousness and peace. The new life they there drank in, filling them with 
joy and strength, was their sufficient and ultimate warrant that the 
waters of this spring had their source in heaven. Their flavour demon- 
strated their origin with the direct and compelling light of a truth that 
offers itself to the soul ready to receive it. This principle of moral and 
religious evidence, of full inward persuasion, took that part in the refor- 
mation of the Church which intellectual evidence took in the Cartesian 
reform of ancient philosophy. In both cases it was the method of inward 
conviction putting an end to the systems and method of antiquity. Thus 
we see Luther and Calvin, with ingenuous and confident boldness such 
as their disciples no longer possess, overturning the ancient pyramid, 
and in the last analysis making their new theory of the authority of the 
Bible rest upon the original creative fact of conscience, upon the inward 
witness of the Spirit, and not the contrary. 

That the position and attitude of the Reformers with regard to the 
Bible have often been deemed uncertain, obscure, or even inconsistent, is 
due to the fact that it is easy to glean from their writings two series 
of apparently irreconcilable statements. Reading one series it would 
be easy to conclude that, to speak their language, they identified " the 
Word of God " with the text, the canon, and even the letter of the biblical 
books, and maintained the system of a literal inspiration and a scriptural 
canon come down from heaven to earth all complete. So to conclude 
would be a great mistake. The more one supposes this to be the case 
the more must he be surprised and disconcerted by the daring criticism 
which at other times the Reformers initiated and practiced, whether with 
regard to the value and authority of certain books or to the formation 
of the canon itself. It would have been a most flagrant inconsistency 
on their part to base the authority of the Word of God upon the decisions 
of a Church whose tradition they almost wholly repudiated as a tissue of 
legends, superstitions, and human inventions. Into this inconsistency 
they did not fall. 

Everything becomes in fact clear by two considerations. The first 


is that their faith, being of the purely moral and religious order, clun^ 
before all things to the moral and religious substance of the Bible, and 
not to its letter and outward form, which are matters not of faith, but 
of history. As their chief purpose, one which absorbed all their thought 
and all their solicitude, was to lead souls to the very fountain-head of 
Christianity, they find no expressions vigorous enough to exalt the 
heavenly quality of its waters, and do not concern themselves beyond 
measure with the earthly basin out of whic' they flow. Their long 
desire is to save men, to set the troubled conscience free, not to resolve 
obscure problems of literary origin, questions of authorship and date; 
nor do they otherwise greatly concern themselves with nice distinctions 
between the content and that which contains it, between the spirit and 
the letter. In their preachings and polemics at least, the human imper- 
fections of the Bible disappear in the radiant glory of its divine truth. 

But this point being proved, another appears. First of all, let us 
look upon the Reformers with those Middle-Age Bibles which they read 
and studied. These traditional collections contained much more than 
the apostolic books. They included apochryphas, pseudepigraphs, eccle- 
siastical writings of widely differing values. The distinction between 
the proto-canonical and the deutero-canonical books was not yet wholly 
forgotten. It must be remembered that before the Council of Trent no 
Ecumenical Council had traced, with any degree of clearness, the boun- 
dary line between that which was of divine inspiration and that which 
was not. How could the Reformers abstain from making some exam- 
ination of these traditional collections? The truth is that criticism must 
have come into being, and did in fact come into being, simultaneously with 
the doctrine of the divine authority of the Scriptures. 

Once again, that which was divine in these books was " the Word 
of God," speaking from them to the conscience ; but the idea would have 
occurred to no one that this Word of God was absolutely identical with 
the biblical collection which he might have in hand. This is evident from 
the manner in which Luther and Melancthon explain and determine the 


. content of this divine Word. It is niude up of two parts : the Law, which 
'reveals to man the gravity of liis estate of sin, by showing him what 
divine justice requires of him, and the gospel, that is, the promise of 
pardon of sin and the outpouring of the spirit of life. Excellent as 
containing the moral and religious substance of the Scripture, tills divi- 
sion is absolutely inapplicable to the books themselves. 

It is still more important to note the new criterion which, at the very 
outset, Luther with frank boldness set up for the criticism of the biblical 
books, and whence he at once deduces a judgment regarding them. His 
translation of the Bible is well known : it contains prefaces in which with 
perfect clearness he lays down the decisive rule which each reader, learned 
or ignorant, should and can follow as he seeks to find in this very mingled 
collection his true soul-nurture, the living, substantial " Word of God." 
After having formulated it he immediately gives examples of its prac- 
tical application to several of the most venerated books. Let us listen 
a moment and learn how he does it: 

" Christ is the Master, the Scriptures are the servant. Here is the 
true touchstone for testing all the books : we must see whether they work 
the works of Christ or not. The book which does not teach Christ is 
not apostolic, wei'e St. Peter or St. Paul its writer. On the other hand, 
the book which preaches Christ is apostolic, were its author Judas, 
Annas, Pilate, or Herod. . . John accords little space to the acts 
of Christ, much to his words. The other Gospels say nmch of his acts, 
less of his teaching. This is why the former is the chief Gospel, unique, 
most precious, the one to be preferred above all the others. In fact, 
the Gospel of John and his First Epistle, the Epistles of Paul, particu- 
larly those to the Romans, the Galatians, and the Ephesians, and the 
First Epistle of Peter, these are the books which show thee Christ and 
teach thee all that it is good and necessary for thee to know, though thou 
shouldst never hear nor see any other books. As for the others, the 
Epistle of James is a veritable epistle of straw, for there is nothing 
evangelical in it." 


We raaj read also what the Reformer wrote of the Revelation of 
John, the Epistle to the Hebrews, and several of the Old Testament 
books, especially the prophets. " Without any doubt," he says, " the 
prophets had studied the books of Moses, and the late ones those of their 
predecessors, and filled with the Spirit of God they committed their good 
thoughts to writing. But this is not to say that these doctors, scrutinis 
ing the Scriptures, did not sometimes find wood, hay, and stubble, anri 
not always gold, silver, or diamonds. Nevertheless the essential abides 
and the fire consumes the rest." ^ 

Evidently Luther was thus led to open to discussion the extent and 
the limits of the biblical canon. The Lutheran Church has never offi- 
cially settled the question ; but he himself did not hesitate to introduce 
into his translation of the Bible, at least of the New Testament, a very 
marked division between books of the first degree and those of the second. 
Where the Reformed Confessions of Faith enumerate the canonical 
books according to traditional usage, they are careful to add, without 
exception, that these books are held and recognised as inspired by God 
and the norm of the faith, " not so much because of the unanimous consent 
of the Church, as in virtue of the inward witness and persuasion of the 
Holy Spirit, by whom we are made wise to discover and set apart these 
from other ecclesiastical books." 

Even this test did not hinder Calvin from doubting the authenticity 
of the Second Epistle of Peter and expressing himself with a freedom 
not again for a long time practised, with regard to the discrepancies in 
the Gospel narratives, and the doubtful character of the Revelation of 
St. John, upon which he never commented. 

It is of small importance that as Luther grew old he tempered his 
early Tarmth, or that criticism has not confirmed his especial conclu- 
sions. In many respects the Reformers were men of transition, often 
dominated by ideas of the past, and held by bonds which they could onh' 

'Luther's "Works," Erlangen edition, vol. Ixii. p. 198-133; Ixiii. p. 157-379. Cf. 
xlvii., 357. 


gradually break. The question is not to justify their inconsistencies, 
nor to swear by their words ; it is to get a clear view of the new principle 
which they introduced into the world, and which, having destroyed the 
Catholic system of authority, forbade the future constitution of any 
other infallible external authority, and consequently of any other 
tyranny. Their title to fame is that they established a new conception 
of religion by removing the seat of religious authority from without 
to within, from the Church to the Christian consciousness. And this 
great revolution they accomplished with entire knowledge of what they 
were doing, and with an astounding logical firmness. We shall be con- 
vinced of this as we examine more nearly the foundation on which, with 
a new theory of the authority of the Bible, they dared to base the certi- 
tude of their faith. 


The Inward Witness of the Holy Spirit; or. The Subjective Basis of 


Let us first develop the consequences of the facts which have just been 

The first is that the Reformers were very far from that Protestant 
dogma of the exterior and absolute authority of the Bible which the 
succeeding age elaborated to rob the Christian conscience of that liberty 
which this age had so dearly bought. The distance, not to say the oppo- 
sition, between the two conceptions of the Holy Scriptures is so great 
that in fact it is a problem how the two can be related, or how one could 
have proceeded from the other. The solution of this problem will be the 
subject of the present chapter. 

The Reformers, and Luther in particular, dreamed of anything 
rather than of raising up an exterior authority, infallible like that of the 
Church, and functioning in the same manner. It never occurred to them 
to consider the Bible as a Codex of absolute and divine prescriptions, to 


be accepted independently of their possible relation to the Christian con- 
science. The Catholic agrees in advance to accept all that the Church 
teaches or may teach, whether or not it is in conformity with his moral 
or religious convictions. There have been, perhaps there still are, Prot- 
estants who take this attitude with regard to the Bible, and so far, in 
method at least, they are still Catholics. 

But Luther was very far from this passive attitude and pure faith 
in authority. He did not accord an equal and absolute value to all the 
books of the Bible. Side by side with the gold, silver, and precious 
stones he freely pointed out the hay and stubble with which they were 
sometimes mingled. From his commerce with the Scriptures, as the 
effect of a direct personal experience, a Christian consciousness had been 
formed within him, the sentiment of the inward possession of that which 
constitutes the pure and essential truth of Christianity. Thence came 
a personal certainty of faith, as far above the letter of Scripture and 
the canonical authority of this or that book as above the traditions of 
the Roman Church and the bulls and decrees of the papacy. This Chris- 
tian consciouness, absolutely sure of itself, could not be subject to any 
external tribunal. On the contrary, it sat in judgment upon all which 
might claim to condemn or enslave it, including the Epistle of St. James, 
the Revelation of St. John, and the ritual laws of the Old Testament. 
In a word, Luther had gained from Scripture itself the experience of 
the religion of grace and justification by faith, and faith had become 
in him so alive, so sure of itself, and, so to speak, so evident to his con- 
sciousness, as to be free with regard to this very Scripture, and open to 
accord neither credit nor value to any biblical testimony which seemed 
to oppose it, or bring it back to a religion of law and of the merit of 
works before God. 

To reduce all this to a more simple expression : The Christian religion 
is not true because it is in the Bible, but it is in the Bible because it is 
true. Truth reveals itself immediately to the consciousness, which, to 
appropriate it, may indeed have need of the Scriptures as of other 


teachers, but which in the end retains and is nourished by it only because 
it is the truth, and the conscience recognises it intrinsically as such. 

What, then, is Scripture, and what honour belongs to it? In truth 
a very great honour. It is not the mistress of true Christianity, but it 
is its servant. The servant need not be perfect; it suffices that she be 
faithful. Scripture is the fixation on paper of the evident Christian 
tradition; but because it is the earliest it is also the surest, and as the 
document most worthy of faith of all that we possess, forever commands 
the respect of all those who, like the Reformers, desire to go to the 
fountain-head and learn the authentic gospel from Christ and his 

Yet this earliest tradition, taken as a whole, is not more secure than 
others from error, forgetfulness, imperfections, and additions. If it 
contains gold and silver, said Luther, it also has its hay and stubble. 
This is why it is ever subject to the criticism both of the Christian con- 
sciousness and of science. Far from excluding necessary criticism, the 
original principle of Protestantism requires and inaugurates it. 

Examine now Luther's canon of Scripture. You will see that the 
distinction which he makes between the books traditionally received and 
the hierarchic dignity in which he classes them depends upon the essen- 
tially subjective criticism of his faith. The certitude of his faith does 
not rest upon a previous theory of the infallibility of Scripture; it is 
his theory of Scripture which rests upon the inward certitude of his 
faith. This is not the attenuation or transposition of Catholicism, it is 
its reversal and overthrow. 

We have less need to explain Calvin. Called to make out of whole 
cloth a system of doctrines and a new church organisation, his rigorously 
logical mind tends by a powerful effort to establish a firm rule, an 
authority before which all must bow. He finds this authority in the 
Scriptures. But he is too logical and too perspicacious not to per- 
ceive and admit the underlying foundation on which he builds his 
theory. Search out this foundation. Miracles are there, prophecy. 


divine inspiration. But these external proofs, including the attestation 
of the Fathers, are powerless and vain if they are not preceded by the 
inward attestation of the Spirit, the personal conviction born of the 
immediate contact of the soul with truth. Here again the truth make^ 
itself directly recognised as such by its intrinsic character, as things blac'. 
and white reveal their colour to the eyes, and things sweet and bitte • 
reveal their flavour. This is what Calvin calls the inward witness of the 
Spirit, which, being the same as that which inspired the prophets, Christ, 
and his apostles, makes us immediately feel that their words are divine 
and true. The authority of the Scripture canon does not rest upon the 
authority of the Church, nor upon a demonstration made by human 
science, but before all things upon this witness of the Spirit. It matters 
little here that Calvin and his disciples were gravely mistaken as to the 
scope of this inward criterion, applying it with such eagerness to all the 
parts and all the books of the traditional Bible indiscriminately. The 
subjective character of both principle and criterion is not less evident. 

From Zwingli we cite but a single text. " Thou seest," he said, 
" where the cold cavils of the Papists and the priests will end when they 
affirm that the meaning of the celestial Word depends upon the judgment 
of man. Thou canst never know what is the Church which can never 
err nor decay, if thou recognisest not the Word of God who constituted 
the Church. This Word has the virtue of giving faith in the Church, 
it can remove her errors, it permits the acceptance of no other (human) 
word. Only pious hearts know this, for faith does not depend upon 
the discussions of men, but has its seat, and rests itself invincibly in the 
soul. It is an experience which everyone may have. It is not a doc- 
trine, a question of knowledge, for we see the most learned men who 
are ignorant of this thing which is the most salutary of all." ^ Here 
again the theology of experience is substituted for that of authority. 

Nevertheless, the mental habits of a generation are not changed in 
a day. A new principle planted in old soil is long subject to the tyranny 
' " De Vera et Fals. Rel.," vol. ii. p. 195. 


of the past, and is slow to yield all its fruits. The Catholic principle 
was destined to reappear in the very heart of Protestantism, and there 
create in another form a new religion of authority by the substitution 
pure and simple of the external authority of Scripture for that of the 
Church. The Reformers themselves were not inaccessible to the tempta- 
tion to simplify things by setting up in their polemics one infallibility 
against another. 

To understand their attitude and the easily detected inconsistencies 
of their successive statements, we must recall the historic circumstances 
and conditions in which they had to do their work. They handled sword 
and trowel at the same time ; they were obliged to make a front against 
the Catholics on the right hand and against the Anabaptists and Illu- 
minati on the left. Scripture was their only weapon for separating 
authentic Christianity from the traditions of the Middle Ages and the 
extreme or immoral Utopias of contemporary sects. How should it be 
surprising that they exaggerated its authority, and, dropping their 
early discrimination between the traditional biblical collection and the 
Word of (jrod, seemed often to identify them? Then, having founded 
a new Church, they were naturally left to give it, in the letter of Scrip- 
ture, an external infallible authority, which should be in nothing inferior 
to that on which the rival Church plumed herself. 

Thus their successors could say in their scholastic language that they 
had founded evangelical Protestantism upon two principles, one material, 
justification by faith, and one formal, the authority of the Scriptures. 
In reality the early Reformers knew nothing of this dualism. As has 
been seen, they made no distinction between the authority of the book 
and that of its contents. It was by its essential content, not by its ex- 
trinsic claims, that the book commanded their consciences. The inward 
proof, the personal experience of salvation, had with them preceded all 
outward demonstration, and by this inward experience the two so-called 
principles of Protestantism had been brought into unity. But as piety 
grew weak, this living unity was broken by the Doctors of the following 


age. They endeavoured to eliminate from their demonstrations every 
subjective element ; their wish was to make of Scripture, not an authentic 
witness of early Christianity, but a supernatural and infallible code of 
Christian verities, in such manner that these verities might be deduced 
more juridico vel geometrico, from the very letter of the sacred text. 
The constitution of the dogma of the infallibility of the Scriptures marks 
the advent of the period justly known as " the Protestant scholastic," 
which began on the very morrow of the disappearance of the Reformers. 



Origin of the Idea of Inspiration 

It was a great advantage for the Protestant Doctors to oppose to the 
authority of the Church an authority which the Church herself had 
consecrated. The behef that the Bible is of divine origin, and was in 
some sort dictated by God, is in reality older than Christianity. The 
primitive man cannot imagine and adore a god without spontaneously 
believing that the god enters into communication with his adorer. And 
doubtless the germ of truth in this belief is that the divine could not 
command our love if the Spirit of God did not naturally live in the depths 
of our being. But in its infancy the human race could only represent 
this truth under marvellous and mythological forms. 

The idea of a divine inspiration vouchsafed to certain men and recog- 
nised in certain books is in no respect specifically Jewish or Christian; 
it is universal. The phenomena of inspiration present themselves every- 
where under very much the same psycho-physiological forms: dreams, 


ecstasies, proplietic fury, visions, a mero inward suggestion, a mental 
alienation explained by the invasion of a spirit from without. In the 
different stages of civilisation we invariably meet sorcerers and diviners, 
oracles and sibyls, prophets, legislators, priests, sages, who are supposed 
to have been touched by a divine breath. All that appeared extraordi- 
nary in the actions, thoughts, or utterances of a man, as well the mani- 
festations of a mysterious malady as those of an exceptional genius, in- 
dicated the presence of a god. All ancient legislation, all the higher 
religions of the East, rest upon sacred books which are considered as the 
product of divine inspiration. 

The forms of the phenomenon and the popular ideas on the subject 
were the same in Israel as among any other people. But with Israel reli- 
gious inspiration, beginning on as low a plane, rose infinitely higher 
and yielded the fruits of a more exquisite and richer maturity. Side 
by side with these common and morbid manifestations of a passive in- 
spiration another order of inspiration was developed, which, far from 
depressing the mental life of a man, carries him, as in the prophets, to 
its maximum of intensity. This prophetic inspiration does not in the 
least degree carry with it infallibility. God sometimes commands that 
certain revelations be put into writing, but in the work of redaction and 
writing there is never any question of a special divine assistance. It 
was only later, when the religious genius of the prophets had become 
extinct and the great literary epoch had closed, that a religious venera- 
tion arose for the letter of the sacred books, and then the Jews, forgetful 
or ignorant of what prophetic inspiration had been, conceived a belief 
that the entire Hebrew text, and the Hellenists that also the trans- 
lation of the LXX, was the very word of God, the dictation of his Spirit. 
Thus by degrees the dogmatic of the schools took the place of the free 
poetry of the early ages. The Platonic theory of enthusiasm and divine 
madness formed the transition between the two. Philo applies it without 
scruple to the prophetic state. Human consciousness disappears when 
that of God comes in. Philo congratulates himself upon having had his 


moments of divine ecstasy. To certain dignities, like that of the high 
priest, belonged the gift of unconscious inspiration. The allegorical 
interpretation at that time in universal use proves the general belief in 
the inspiration of the sacred writings. But it was also an ingenious 
means of preserving the freedom of the mind in the new time, and of 
escaping that tyranny of the letter which would have arrested all initia- 
tive and all progress. Thus exegesis saved philosophic liberty. 


Belief m Inspiration in the Christia/n Church 

Heirs of the Jewish tradition, the early Christians did little more than 
continue it. They cited the Greek version of the Old Testament with 
the same confidence as the Hebrew text. Jesus and his disciples looked 
upon the sacred books of their people in no other way than other men 
of their generation. Paul's reasonings upon a word in Genesis, which 
is in the singular instead of the plural, sufficiently show that the apostle 
had religiously kept what he had learned in the school of Gamaliel.^ 

Nevertheless the traditional doctrine did not fetter the consciousness 
of Jesus. By virtue of the immediate intuition of his consciousness, in 
which he found the certitude and the light of a higher revelation, he did 
not hesitate to put aside the letter of the law, whether as relative and 
transitory or as contrary to his own moral and religious inspiration. He 
promised his disciples a new Spirit. Their firm assurance that they had 
the perfect revelation in the Gospel of Christ and the gift of the Spirit 
which they had received naturally lifted them above earlier revelations. 
The Spirit gave Paul liberty to proclaim the abolition of the rule of 
the law, and by his subtile exegesis to find in the very code of the Old 
CoVenant, and especially in the prophets, the gospel of the new time. 

This new inspiration which gave to all the preachers of the gospel 
the assurance of being, and the right to claim to be, bearers of the 
" Word of God," gave rise to a new collection of sacred books. But in 

» Gal. iU. 15-18. 


the apostolic time no one had gone so far. No one then foresaw that a 
second volume would be added to the Bible. People lived in the expecta- 
tion of the end of the world. Jesus had promised the Church his Spirit, 
not a new book. The new inspiration was not the privilege of a few 
chosen men, but the inalienable possession of all Christians. " He who 
has not received the Spirit of Christ is none of his." Far from creating 
distinctions, this universal inspiration established a real unity. For this 
reason the apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians that the man who has 
received the Spirit, o TrvevfuiTLKos, judges of all things and is judged 
by no man, and to the Thessalonians, " I speak as unto wise men; judge 
ye what I say. Prove all things, hold fast that which is good." Chris- 
tianity, therefore, enters the world not as the religion of a new servi- 
tude, but as the religion of the inward freedom of the soul. 

This apostolic inspiration did not put those whom it touched beyond 
the possibility of human fallibility. Paul at Antioch was obliged to 
rebuke Peter severely for a moral error. He himself carefully distin- 
guishes between the eternal religious verity, the very commandments of 
Christ, and his own individual views. He supposes the possibility of an 
error of memory from his pen ; he declares that he is constantly making 
progress in knowledge of the truth; he modifies his early ideas upon 
many points and ingenuously confesses that he considers his present 
knowledge as imperfect, destined to give place to more light and greater 
accuracy. We perceive the same modest human consciousness in other 
sacred writers, who give us glimpses of their travail of thought in com- 
posing their works. Luke had certainly received the Spirit of God. 
But read again the prologue to his Gospel : does he speak otherwise than 
as a good historian of his time, who has carried on a process of research 
and criticism in order to give a more full and accurate account than those 
given by his predecessors? Is there a single one of these writers — save 
perhaps the author of the Apocalypse, faithful in this respect to the 
literary class in which he works — is there a single one, I ask, who did 
not write for the occasion, in view of the requirements of circumstances, 


or who presents his work as a divine writing, to be added to the canon 
of the Old Testament? 

These writings, therefore, have no appearance of being the author- 
ised pubhcation of divine oracles ; they appear as the spontaneous pro- 
duction of a great classic literature, born of a profound religious faith, 
of a powerful common inspiration, but in which the general unity does 
not exclude a diversity of genius, of thought, and of style, and in which 
are not lacking, side by side with beautiful thoughts and striking truths, 
imperfections of form, errors of detail, traces of former prejudices, 
and long superannuated methods of exegesis and reasoning. 

From the middle of the second century everything is changed. By 
degrees, as documents of primitive Christianity came into use for read- 
ing in public worship side by side with the books of the Old Testament, 
they were classed in the same category, and the same Philonian concep- 
tion of inspiration was applied to them. In them, as in the writings of 
the prophets, they heard the lyre or the cithera, the heavenly musician, 
the divine Logos, singing to the glory of God. It is impossible to 
imagine a more complete annihilation of human individuality, and modern 
theories of inspiration have devised nothing more extreme. 

But it would be a mistake to seek to extract from the poetic imagin- 
> ings of this period a fixed and clearly defined doctrine of inspiration. 
Side by side with propositions and arguments which seem to imply a lit- 
eral theopneusty, we find others, sometimes by the same Church Father, 
which prove how great was still the liberty and how loose and uncertain 
the theory. Clement of Alexandria placed philosophy beside the law, and 
the sages on a par with the prophets. Justin Martyr and Theophilus 
of Antioch no more doubted the divine character of the Sibylline Oracles 
than of the prophecies of Isaiah. TertuHian held that every edifying 
book was divinely inspired. Origen went farther: he clearly distin- 
guished in the Scriptures portions of higlily unequal inspiration and 
value. Even Augustine, though he said that the style of the Holy 
Spirit was everywhere recognisable, and that a divine grace had placed 


the sacred writers above all possibility of error, nevertheless asserted that 
this supernatural assistance had not given them the power of overstep- 
ping the natural limits of human intelligence, and that they spoke, as 
men, of divine things. 

Warned by the prophetic excesses of Montanism, Catholic theologians 
laid less emphasis upon the theory of the " divine madness." The in- 
tense spirit of Tertullian might find satisfaction in saying that God 
speaks by the mouth of man, when the man himself knows not what he 
says, but the Alexandrians found it more easy to conceive of inspiration 
as an act of the Logos, which, far from annihilating the natural faculties 
of the mind, has the effect of making them more acute, more clear, and 
more apt to attain to truth. 

The limits of inspiration remained especially uncertain. Neither 
Church Fathers nor councils could agree upon the number of the books 
which are the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit, nor upon the marks 
by which they may be known. A certain book, the " Shepherd of Her- 
mas," for example, regarded by some as a divine revelation, is branded 
by others as the breviary of adultery. The Revelation of St. John, 
generally venerated in Western Christendom, is slighted in Alexandria 
as an apocrA^phal work. It is precisely the other way with the Epistle 
to the Hebrews, down to the Synod of Carthage (397). Justin Martyr, 
Clement of Alexandria, and others cite as the Word of God gospels since 
then lost. The still extant lists of the canonical books from the second 
to the fifth century offer surprising disparities. 

They got over the difficulty by the distinction which became current 
between the writings called homologoumena, or generally received, and 
antilegomena, or works of doubtful authenticity or disputed authority. 
The method of the Antioch school, more historical and grammatical than 
that of Alexandria, finally arrived at a more clear-cut and thorough- 
going criticism. Theodore of Mopsuestia, if we are to believe his ac- 
cusers, questioned the sacred character of several books of the Old and 
New Testaments, such as the Song of Songs and the Epistle of James, 


carried the Psalms of David to the times of Zerubabel and Ezekiel, and 
despoiled the majority of them of their prophetic meaning by interpret- 
ing them according to Jewish ideas. 

The arguments for the divinity of biblical inspiration were not less 
diverse and indecisive. It is not difficult to understand the reason for 
the prevailing uncertainty upon so capital a doctrine, and the languid 
interest felt in escaping from it. By declaring herself infallible tht 
Church had made herself the object of faith. She had become the high- 
est authority in questions of doctrine and discipline. People no longer 
believed in the Church because of Scripture, but in Scripture because 
of the authority of the Church, as St. Augustine said. *** 

This is why nothing was decided during the Middle Ages. The time 
produced opinions of the loosest character, side by side with those of the 
strictest. Scholasticism was as incapable of criticism as of exegesis. 

Both sciences emerged, modestly enough at first, with the Renascence, \ 
and put in circulation more liberal ideas and especially a more serious 1 
method. Erasmus held that the apostles, though animated by the Holy } 
Spirit, were none the less fallible men, and that without injury to the : 
gospel they were mistaken in certain matters and ignorant in others. : 
And finally the opinions of Luther concerning the prophets and a certain \ 
number of supposed apostolic writings — opinions set forth in the pre- 
ceding chapter — show how free was the Christian conscience in the early 
years of the Reformation with regard to the traditional canon. 

We must then conclude that, prepared in various ways in the syna- 
gogue and the Church, the dogma of the authority of the Bible was 
not yet defined and constituted at the close of the Middle Ages, either 
as regards the theory of inspiration or concerning the contents of the 
second collection. Up to this time the Church had sufficed for every- 
thing. It was quite otherwise with the communities born of the Refor- 
mation. The authority of the Scriptures being put in opposition to 
that of the ancient Church and her tradition, it became necessary to 
^ define the characteristics of this supreme authority. The ta^k of the 


Protestantism of that day was to return to the doctrine so inconsistently 
elaborated in the past, to unify it and carry it to its ultimate conclu- 
sion. At no less a cost could the Bible be transformed into an external 
infallible authority. The complete development of the new dogma took 
place in two periods. The first is represented by the Protestant Con- 
fessions of Faith ; the second by the construction of the orthodox theory 
in the seventeenth century. 


The Principle of the Dogma 

The principle of the Protestant dogma of authority in matters of faith 
was first officially laid down in the Confessions of Faith of the sixteenth 

In the first thought of their authors the symbols neither had nor 
ought to have any normative authority in themselves. They were not 
decretals, but mere historic expositions drawn up with express apologetic 
purpose, to refute the calumnies of some and to deny all complicity with 
the excesses of others. By them the Protestants desired to make known 
to princes and peoples what in reality they were and what they believed. 
The Confession of Faith presented by Melancthon at the Diet of Augs- 
burg in 1530 had no other purpose. The same motive caused Calvin 
to take up the pen in 1534. The first edition of the " Christian Insti- 
tutes," addressed to Francis I, was an extended Confession of Faith. 
The Calvinistic Confessions of Faith are abridged " Christian Insti- 

These documents based their authority neither on themselves nor on 
the authority of the men or the synods that issued them, but solely upon 
the Word of God, the doctrine of which, to the exclusion of any other 
authority, they claimed to reproduce. Necessarily, therefore, they in- 
sisted above all upon the authority of this Word, the supremacy of which 
no other authority, whether of heaven or earth, could call in question; 


and this they all did unanimously, with a humility and a tenacity alike 
extraordinary. Expressing themselves in popular style and in brief 
statements, they necessarily dropped out those distinctions which all the 
Reformers made between the Word of God and the traditional biblical 
collection formed and preserved by the Roman Catholic Church. They 
took no pains to lay down a theory of divine inspiration, which at that 
time was contested by no one ; they did not measure its degrees nor describe 
its forms, nor did they define the true relation between the divine doctrine 
and the human text, between the content and that which contained it. 
Exhilarated by the liquor, they took no note of the goblet that contained 
it, but passing over the accessories, and obeying the demand, at that 
epoch universal, for an infallible external authority, they boldly identi- 
fied the Word of God with the traditional Bible and emphatically uttered 
the brief formula : " The canonical Scriptures are the very word of God, 
and this Word proves itself to be true and salutary, not by the human 
witness of the Church, but by the divine witness of the Holy Spirit in 
the conscience." 

Doubtless there was here some incoherence which the discussions of 
the following age would bring out. There is neither parity nor homo- 
geneity between a literary fact, such as the divers historical collections 
of the early Christian books, gropingly made by men sometimes unen- 
lightened and sometimes biassed, and the essentially subjective moral and 
religious fact of doctrinal evidence. To draw a conclusion from one to 
the other is logically impossible. I never cease to marvel, for example, 
that the inward witness of the Holy Spirit was able to designate to the 
French Reformers of 1559 the twenty-seven books of the New Testa- 
ment, and no doubt the thirty-nine of the Old Testament also, and that 
the list which they drew up in the Confession, called of La Rochelle, has 
not one book less nor one book more than that most generally received 
in the Roman Catholic Church ; or that the question of the apocryphal 
books could be so easily settled in the same way. The two facts are not 
in the same order. One has to do with moral and religious experience, 


the other with history and hterary criticism. Later they were neces- 
sarily disjoined by the progress of bibHcal learning. Protestant theo- 
logians became convinced, at heavy cost, that it is impossible to base an 
external authority, infallible a priori, upon a subjective fact of moral 
experience. But, at the time we are now considering, no one had any 
suspicion of this, except perhaps Luther in his moments of clairvoyance 
and intellectual freedom. 

No one among the Reformers handled the old Scriptural argument, 
" It is written," with more decision and vigour than Luther. No one 
more firmly believed in the divine origin and inspiration of the Scrip- 
tures. But neither was anyone more at liberty with regard to the letter 
and the form of the traditional collection. He literally inaugurated 
biblical criticism ; and if his work in this direction was not carried farther, 
it was because he had no successor. The inspiration of the Scriptures was 
with him not a dogma, an intellectual theory established before the read- 
ing of the books, but a religious fact, a moral conviction created and 
continually renewed during the reading by the immediate contact of the 
conscience with the truth of God. Thence came the inspired character 
of his faith, its invincible assurance and serene liberty. 

Between the Lutheran symbols and those of the French Reformers 
there is this difference : that the former, unlike the latter, never enumerate 
the canonical books, nor give any lists of them. Indeed they could not. 
Their authors would not repudiate the classification made by Luther him- 
self in his translation of the Bible, and they dared not sanction it. They 
tacitly let the stream of custom and ancient tradition flow over the 
Reformer's work and efface it. 

The Reformation Fathers considered the Bible from within; they 
embraced the saving doctrines, the religious marrow of the book, without 
concerning themselves about the history of the text and the formation 
of the canon. Their successors considered the Bible from without, in 
the extrinsic qualities which demonstrate its divine origin and permitted 
them to claim for it an implicit and anticipated faith in all that it may 


contain, previous to examination and experience. Thus they fell into 
the old rut of Catholicism and sought, like it, to build up ^ religion of 

To the early Reformers the proposition, " The Bibl€ is the Word of 
God " was the shout of the soul saved from sin and death, set free from 
all outward servitude, bound solely by the inward monitions of the Spirit 
of God. With their successors the same proposition became an abstract 
theorem, a truth of logic from which one had only to deduce the conse- 
quences. The exterior authority of the letter of the Bible took the place 
of the authority of the Church ; and by the same syllogistic and deductive 
method — like jurists with an undebatable code — the theologians with 
marvellous facility drew from it all their doctrines, and built upon it a 
system which was only a new Catholicism, acephalous and inconsequential. 
Let us examine how they did it. 


The Construction of the Dogma 

If we ask why the distinction between the canonical Scriptures and the 
Word of God made by the early Reformers remained unfruitful, and 
even gave place before long to its opposite, the identification of the two 
terms pure and simple, we shall find another reason than that drawn 
from the circumstances of the hour and the facilities and advantages 
which such a simplification gave to Protestant polemics. Something was 
going on analogous to what we saw in the second century, when the 
Christian religion, the transcendent principle of inspiration and life, be- 
came so incarnated and imprisoned in a visible, organised Church as even 
to be identified with it. All religions of authority end thus in materialis- 
ing their object in a sensible form, because in no other way can their 
authority become external and palpable. For the same reason the word 
of God, or the inward revelation of God to the conscience, was in the 
seventeenth century materialised and imprisoned in the traditional letter 


and Codex of Scripture, so that the two terms were used interchangeably 
without the slightest distinction or reserve. 

And this result was almost forced by the too intellectual conception 
of the " Word of Grod " held by the Reformers and by them transmitted 
to their successors.^ By this term they understood above all else a doc- 
trine {doctrina divina) supernaturally revealed to men by God. A doc- 
trine cannot do without its adequate expression, for when ill expressed it 
is no longer true. Where should the adequate and perfect expression 
of the divine doctrine be sought, if not in the Bible? 

This being so, the Bible, which until then had been only a historic 
instrument for arriving at the discovery of true Christianity, which they 
sought to restore to the Church, was changed into a code of divine 
verities, itself divine, into a supernatural manual of pure religion, and, 
by the same act, notwithstanding all protests that might arise, this reli- 
gion, like Catholicism entirely expressed and inclosed in a sacred code 
with its authentic formulas, necessarily took on the form of a legal reli- 
gion, and was in danger of losing its specifically evangelical character. 

Once entered upon this downward path, Protestantism must keep on 
to the foot. The Bible, literally defined as the Word of God, was as 
much opposed to the claims of the human reason as to those of the 
Catholic Church. To accord to the reason and conscience of man the 
smallest faculty or competence to distinguish between the human parts 
and the divine parts, between things obligatory and things not binding, 
would be at once to destroy its sovereign authority and leave conscience 
and reason with the last word in every discussion. Quenstedt was right : 
" If in the canonical books anything has come from a human being, and 
not from the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the certitude and stability 
of the entire Scriptures would be imperilled, its full divine authority 
would be destroyed, and our whole faith would become insecure." 

Catholics did not find the same necessity for pushing the dogma of 
the Scriptures to its extreme conclusion. Side by side with Scripture 
' Luther, in Rothe, " Zur Dogmatik," p. 127. 


they had the authority of the Church, which served as foundation for the 
Scriptures themselves. They were therefore at first better disposed than 
Protestants to make concessions to the new-bom criticism. Not only 
did Jesuits like Bellarmin explicitly recognise human collaboration in 
the historical books of the Bible, but others even granted that certain 
errors might have crept into it. We may observe with what truly Nor- 
man irony Richard Simon speaks of the anxiety of the Protestant doc- 
tors, who rest everything on the integrity and infallibility of the text 
of Scripture, while learned Catholics, knowing that their faith is fixed 
upon another foundation, give themselves up to research without dis- 
quietude or scruple. 

Protestant theology did not revise its theory of inspiration until 
after it had rigorously worked out the conclusions of that theory. 
Properly speaking, the Scriptures had only one author, God himself, or, 
preferably perhaps, the Holy Spirit. Doubtless, to put his Word into 
writing, God must needs make use of human hands. But these human 
writers were only instruments, secretaries ; more correctly still, calami, 
pens, by means of which the divine author wrote. There is no question 
here of an inward illumination, enlightening these human organs of the 
Holy Spirit. That was needless, since they had no part nor responsi- 
bility in what they wrote; their inspiration consisted in the good will 
with which they lent their hands to the master who asked for them. 
They were not unconscious, but, save for the mechanical act of writing, 
entirely passive. They may have understood what they set down, but 
that was not necessary, and indeed was not always the case, as several 
of them avow, and as was proved by the example of Balaam's ass. 

The Bible is a letter from God; form and matter, ideas and words, 
addressed from heaven to men. Inspiration is conceived as a super- 
natural dictation. 

In this act Protestant scholasticism distinguishes three moments : the 
command to take the pen and write (impulsus ad scribendum), the revela- 
tion of that which is to be written (suggestio rerum), and the sugges- 


tion of the words in which the divine thought must be formulated {sug- 
gestio verborum). Thus nothing is left to chance or human falhbility. 
God himself is responsible for the whole. 

Arrived at this point the theory was confronted with evident facts, 
and was obliged to come to an understanding with them. Between dif- 
ferent parts of Scripture there are discrepancies and even contradictions ; 
in any case there are varieties of style. How reconcile varieties or con- 
trasts with the unity of the principal author, that is, God.'* The jfirst 
and least dangerous expedient was to refer everything to the will of 
the Holy Spirit. The Spirit, liberal dispenser of tongues of every sort, 
gives to each one that which he prefers or deems best suited to his design. 
But at this point students began to wonder that each biblical writer spoke 
precisely in the style and with the forms of reasoning already known 
and determined by the culture and habits of mind of his own time. To 
explain this astounding invariable agreement it was then said that the 
Holy Spirit, in choosing his expressions and forms of speech, took ac- 
count of the individuality and degree of culture of each of his organs, 
leaving him free to speak and write as he would have spoken and written 
if he had been left to his own genius. This first concession was dan- 
gerous indeed. 

Another difficulty. Neither the Old nor the New Testament is 
written in Hebrew or Greek of perfect grammatical purity. The 
Church Fathers, Bossuet, and almost all the great preachers, have elo- 
quently insisted upon the contrast between the sublimit}' of their teach- 
ings and the rudeness or poverty of their utterance. Erasmus and the 
humanists give no different judgment. But in tlic theory of verbal 
inspiration, set up by the Protestant theologians, such barbarisms, 
solecisms, faults of declension and syntax as were discovered in one or 
another biblical writing became a stumbling-block. They sought to 
put it out of the way either by more subtile distinctions or by the most 
startling expedients. There was a long polemic between the purists, 
so-called because they maintained that the Bible from cover to cover was 


irreproachably correct, and those who made the indispensable concessions 
to philology and grammar. On the side of orthodox dogmatics the 
debate was closed by the paradoxical assertion : " The style of Holy 
Scripture is tainted by no grammatical vice nor any barbarism or 
solecism." The grave fact here is not the question, but the answer which 
it was deemed necessary to make to it. 

They could not stop at asserting the inspiration of the words: it 
became necessary to go on even to that of the syllables, the vowels, and 
consonants. The occasion was tliis: 

A learned Hebraist, professor in the Protestant Academy of Saumur, 
discovered and published the fact that the vowel points of the Masoretic 
writings are relatively of more recent date than the Hebrew text, which 
was at first constituted with consonants only. The vowel points are 
the work of Jewish rabbis who invented them about the beginning of the 
Middle Ages, to fix the pronunciation of the text. Great was the dis- 
tress among the strict partisans of plenary inspiration. If the vowel 
points were not inspired the text itself became uncertain, and the per- 
fection and authority of the Bible were gravely attacked. The two 
Buxtorfs placed their colossal erudition at the service of the orthodox 
thesis to refute the discovery made by criticism. They succeeded very 
ill. But dogmatics came once more to the rescue with an arbitrary 
solution of a problem of literary history. The latest Reformed symbol 
proclaimed the antiquity of the vowel points and the entire inspiration 
of the sacred text, with regard to the vowels as well as the consonants. 

It was necessary to maintain that the Scriptures were exempt from 
error not only in matters of doctrine and morals, but in matters of his- 
tory, geography, cosmology, and onomastics; and as Rome had con- 
demned Galileo, so Wittenburg and Geneva, in the name of the dogma, 
denied all discoveries which seemed to imperil the verbal infallibility of 
the sacred text. Roman intolerance had been odious, but the claims of 
Protestant scholasticism became ridiculous. 

With such inconsistencies was the new orthodoxy afflicted that the 


liberal studies which theology had encouraged were about to turn to her 
confusion. If the text of the Bible is divine, it is impossible to apply 
too much zeal and patience to the task of restoring its original and 
authentic form. The only editions in existence had been printed from a 
small number of manuscripts, nearly all very recent. Who could guar- 
antee that the successive copies, made in the course of centuries, had 
remained true to the original.? Men set themselves, with an ardour 
never since relaxed, to the search for other manuscripts and to the 
minute collation of all the textual witnesses. The number of the various 
or new readings thus accumulated by such men as Estienne, Beza, Richard 
Simon, Mill, and Wettstein soon mounted up into the tens of thousands. 
But what avails the literal inspiration of words and syllables if, by the 
act of ignorant, inattentive, or even biassed copyists the text has come 
down to us corrupted, or at least uncertain.'' Is the work of the Holy 
Spirit to be made of no avail by the stupidity or the perversity of men? 
The case was grave. How should it be resolved .f* There was but one 
choice: either to proclaim the divine character of the textus receptus, 
published by the Elzevirs in the seventeenth century, or to accept the 
results of biblical criticism with all their consequences. Neither of these 
solutions was satisfactory. The authority of the so-called " received 
text " after all rested only upon a bookseller's announcement, and 
criticism, becoming daily bolder, was destined to give the death-blow to 
the dogmatic theory of inspiration. 

The question of the bibhcal canon and its authentic limits gave rise 
to still graver questions. The apocryphal books of the Old Testament, 
preserved in the German Bibles, had been severely excluded from the 
Reformed Bibles. When the Catholics accused the Protestants of muti- 
lating the divine Scriptures they retorted with the accusation that the 
Catholics had added to it works purely human and unauthoritative. 
Caught between the Catholic Church whose tradition it could not accept 
without committing suicide, and the independent criticism whose re- 
searches it feared, Protestant orthodoxy found itself in a no-thorough- 


fare. How could it know whether in the existing collection were to be 
found all the books written by the Holy Spirit, or whether among those 
actually there might not be found some unauthentic or interpolated 
books? Those who read the Old Testament attentively could detect in 
it allusions to several prophetic books which we do not possess, and in 
the New it is certain that some Epistles of. Paul, now lost, are wanting. 
To all questions concerning the integrity or the authenticity of the 
books of the Bible they were fain, then, to reply by an act of faith in 
the Providence of God, who, having made the gift of his Word to men, 
would not permit it to be altered, or any part of it to be lost. 

The question of the authenticity of the ancient Scriptures, which 
since that time has provoked so many controversies and researches, seemed 
to these theologians of minor importance. If God is in fact the sole 
responsible author of the biblical writings, what matter the names or 
the persons of those who merely held the pen.'' What does it matter 
that they should have been eye-witnesses or have immediate knowledge 
of the facts that they related, since they wrote not from the memory 
of things they knew, but as God dictated to them. 

Therefore, to prove the divinity of the Bible, they did not start, like 
orthodox teachers of modern times, with the authenticity of the individual 
writings in the Bible and the veracity of their authors. Proofs of this 
nature, whether historic or moral, can only support a human faith in 
Holy Scripture; a likelihood, a probability which will never equal the 
divine certitude in which alone the Christian conscience can find rest and 
satisfaction. " If we will indeed minister to the needs of consciences," 
said Calvin, " and hinder them from wandering and vacillating in doubt 
and perpetual instability, we must seek the ground for our conviction 
in something higher than human reasonings, opinions, or conjectures, 
I mean in the witness of the Holy Spirit. Just as God alone can be 
the sufficient witness to his Word, so the Word will find no faith in the 
hearts of men until it has been certified and sealed by the inward witness 
of the Spirit." 


The true demonstration of the divinity of the Scriptures is, therefore, 
an inward revelation taking place in the consciousness at the moment of 
reading, and making the truth appear as the sunlight. We know that 
light is light by the mere fact that it gives us light. So the old theology 
never undertook to demonstrate by reasonable proofs the essential dig- 
nity of the Bible. It left it to justify itself to the consciousness, for 
it has in itself, as Calvin said, the faculty of showing its truth as things 
white or black of showing their colour, and things bitter or sweet of 
showing their flavour. 

There is in fact nothing to oppose to this appeal to experience, to 
moral and religious evidence. But this evidence, offered by the Holy 
Spirit to pious souls, is a subjective principle like that of philosophy 
or morals. How can it serve as the basis of an external material 
authority? Here is the fallacy, the weak point of Protestant scholas- 

Furthermore, the witness of the Spirit in the conscience is in the 
essentially moral and religious order, and only by persuasion and sophis- 
try can it be extended to questions of history and literature. When 
from a religious impression we derive a conclusion as to the authenticity 
of a document or the truth of a narrative, it is as if one were to draw, 
from the moral impression made upon him by the " (Edipus Tyrannus " 
of Sophocles or Shakspeare's " Hamlet," objective and positive conclu- 
sions as to the actual history of the city of Thebes or the kingdom of 
Denmark. The grandeur of the figure of Abraham or the psychological 
beauty of the drama of Eden no more proves the historicity of the nar- 
ratives of Genesis than the pathos of the farewell of Hector and Androm- 
ache or the prayer of Priam at the knees of Achilles proves that of 
Homer's Iliad. They are things of different orders, between which 
there is no common measure, and the questions arising in each order must 
be solved by essentially different processes. 

Finally, the ecclesiastic theory of Scripture is completed and summed 
up in the enumeration of mystic qualities or virtues of Scripture {affec- 


tiones scripturce sacrce) as Catholic dogma in the marks or notes of the 
Church. The two principal attributes of the Bible, to which it is easy 
to refer all the others, are infallibility, which bases its absolute authority 
on a fact of doctrine, and efficacy, that is, its power to create and foster 
the new life in the soul. But this is not to be limited to a natural effi- 
cacy such as that of every good book. What our theologians claim 
is a supernatural influence exerted by the Bible, an influence which does 
not consist in its moral power to persuade or instruct, but in the creative 
power of the Spirit, immanent in a metaphysical and essential way in 
the biblical text itself. The Bible is the mysterious incarnation of the 
Spirit. The Word was not only made flesh, it was made Scripture; it 
is in the sacred volume as Christ is in the Eucharist, as the soul is in 
the body, and the reading of the Bible acts divinely upon the soul after 
the manner of the sacrament. 


Protestant and Catholic Dogmas of Authoritii Compared 

The two dogmas were in repeated collision during nearly two centuries ; 
but beneath the obvious diff^erences and through the most obstinate con- 
troversies there were underlying analogies continually drawing them 
together and tending toward their reconciliation. 

The two religious systems are of one family; both are systems of 
authority. They have the same starting point, and, at least theoreti- 
cally, are constructed upon the same deductive model. 

Their common starting point is the notion of an external divine 
revelation, consisting in a doctrine or an institution decreed by God and 
supernaturally communicated to men as an external law to command 
the intelligence and the will. That man had need of an infallible 
authority and that this authority, with the absolute submission which 
it implies, constituted the very substance of religion, was in the sixteenth 
and seventeenth centuries one of the traditional axioms which are never 


discussed, one of those idol ideas of which Bacon speaks, which tyrannise 
over the best minds until the day when men gain courage to examine 

On both sides men reasoned in the same way, with the same a priori 
deduction from the same syllogisms. It was not enough that God should 
give his revelation to man. The gift would have been useless and vain 
if it had not been received entire and without alloy. God, therefore, 
would surely provide that the heavenly stream from the fountain of 
salvation should not be corrupted by its course through the human chan- 
nels by which it must be distributed among men down to the last human 
generation. These necessary channels are oral tradition and Scripture. 
Both must be canonised and made sacred. The Catholics had made haste 
to do so, and the Protestants, unable to deny that the Word of God had 
first been preached and propagated by the human voice before being 
written, could not but canonise oral tradition, at least in its first period, 
in the very fact of insisting upon all that was surest and most stable in 
Scripture. So far the two systems went hand in hand. 

Here, however, they parted; one attached itself to the tradition of 
the Church, to which it subordinated the Scriptures, the other to the 
Scriptures, to which it subordinated tradition. But on neither side was 
disavowal complete or fundamental. The Protestants preserved the 
symbols of the ancient Church and the decrees of ecumenical councils, 
and defended them — witness the stake of Servetus — with an intolerance 
as great as that of the Catholics of their time. The Catholics no more 
rejected Scripture than the Protestants ; they simply claimed, as Bossuet 
said to Claude, that the Church understood and interpreted it better than 
the individual sense of a few doctors or a few believers. Upon miracles, 
prophecy, inspiration, the Incarnation, expiation, the Trinity, upon the 
most important dogmas of the Christian rehgion, to the general Chris- 
tian consciousness of that epoch, the harmony between the two parties 
was complete and profound. How then shall we be surprised when 
great and sincere spirits like Bossuet, Leibnitz, and many others esteemed 


a reconciliation as not only desirable, but possible, and bent their best 
efforts to bring it to pass? There was a difference of quantity, not of 
quality, between the two systems. They might, then, hope to reduce it 
to nothing by reciprocal concessions. 

The peacemakers were mistaken, it is true; they did not perceive, 
under CathoHc forms which were persistent in Protestantism, the new 
principle, introduced into the world by the Reformation, which was ob- 
scurely working in the Protestant consciousness and bringing to ship- 
wreck all these benevolent attempts at conciliation. But if one takes 
into account simply the doctrinal system of orthodoxy of the time, it is 
impossible not to admit the evident analogies of thought and reasoning. 
The Protestants were led to establish the infallibility of the Scriptures 
along the same path by which the Catholics established that of the 
Church. The Holy Spirit, who for the latter was incarnated and im- 
prisoned in tradition and the hierarchy, was for the former likewise 
incarnated and imprisoned in the letter of the Bible. From both start- 
ing-points the same result was reached, the constitution of an external 
authority regarded as divine, for which implicit faith and unreserved 
submission were imperatively claimed in the name of the divine majesty 
itself, whatever the Bible might teach on any of its pages, or the Church 
decree at any moment of its history. 

The Catholic is bound to believe in the Immaculate Conception of 
the Virgin, not because he is convinced that this doctrine is true, but 
because the Church has so ordained ; in like manner the Protestant ought 
to believe in demoniacal possession and in the mythological or anthropo- 
morphic figure of Satan, because the Bible so teaches. In both cases 
Christian dogmas are drawn from these two primordial dogmas which 
include them all, by the way of authority and deductive form, the short- 
est and most simple of all logical forms. In both cases Christianity, 
enjoined by an exterior law, renounces its original character, that of 
being the inspiration of the conscience, a free and living soul-power 
(8um/iis deov), and descends to the rank of a legal religion. 


To turn to those things in which they are unlike. The Catholic 
system finds divine infallibility in an admirably organised social insti- 
tution, with its supreme head, the Pope; the Protestant system finds 
infallibility in a book. *And from whatever point of view we examine 
the two systems, the advantage is incontestably on the Catholic side. 

The Church has this first superiority over the Bible: that it is a 
social organism, alive, contemporaneous, flexible, able to deal with all 
the new questions, to develop itself skilfully without inconsistency, thanks 
to the principle of inspiration which it carries within itself. It can show 
itself tolerant of all that it cannot prevent, can close its eyes to all that 
it is best not to see ; in short, in ruling the minds of men it can conduct 
itself with all the freedom, prudence, and patience of governments which 
are sure that time is working for them. The Bible, on the contrary, is 
a document of the past, a book whose form and ideas are those of a 
certain date, and respond to a definite degree of culture and state of 
civilisation. Let no one object to this, that its spirit is a spirit of life. 
The question here is not of the Christian spirit, which is indeed inde- 
pendent of the letter of Scripture, but of the letter itself, which Prot- 
estant orthodoxy holds to be the pure and very Word of God, to which 
it would bind its adherents as to a divine law, the eternal expression of 
the truth. This being so, we surely must feel that the system of the 
infallible authority of a book is much less easy to maintain, much more 
difficult to practise, than that of the infallible authority of a Church. 
In fact, if Protestantism were indeed the intellectual tyranny of a book, 
we should not say that it had not long to live; we should say that for 
the past two centuries it had ceased to live, instead of being to-day the 
religious form of those peoples who are most advanced in scientific cul- 
ture and in Christian civilisation. 

In the second place, the Catholic system has much more grandeur 
than the other. It is one thing to reason on the value of a book, and 
another to create, through eighteen centuries of history, by an uninter- 
rupted series of efforts and conflicts, a religious empire like that of 


Rome. This system is the work of bishops, monks, Popes, politics, quite 
as much as of the doctors. It was born and grew up in the very thick 
of the human conflict, rendering services to modern humanity and bring- 
ing upon it evils and dangers alike extraordinary. Without the slight- 
est doubt, as we have shown, the dogmatic and religious claims of 
Catholicism are fictions or legends ; but the Catholic Church is assuredly 
a political reality with which the potentates of the time cannot refuse 
to reckon, and one of the grandest spectacles in history is the slow 
growth of the power of the Popes and the formation of that wonderful 
and terrible governmental machine which extends over more than one- 
third of Christendom. 

What is the Protestant system beside all this? A tissue of abstrac- 
tions peaceably chained together by a logical link in the closets of doc- 
tors or within the precincts of the Schools ; a system which has never 
succeeded in establishing itself seriously either in the Churches or in 
lay society, an artificial and contradictory work, lacking at once basis 
and conclusion, destroyed by the very Reformation principle whence men 
have sought to deduce it. What use is there, indeed, in postulating the 
divine inspiration of an ancient text and its infallibility to an iota if at 
the present time this text, written in languages long dead, is accessible 
only to a few learned philologues ; if the Christian people must con- 
tent themselves with versions in the vulgar tongues which are neither 
infallible nor perfect, or with the words of preachers subject to all human 
frailties? If errors and imperfections in the sermons or in modern 
versions of the Bible do not prevent souls from attaining salvation, why 
should we insist that if they should exist in the original text, the text 
had not, and could not have had, the same salutary virtue? 

The Protestant dogma of the infalHbihty of the Bible is not only 
inconceivable to thought — it is also useless in fact. 



The Basis of the Dogma Displaced 

The Protestant system was barely completed when its fragility became 
evident. An attempt was made to strengthen it by altering its basis; 
but this only hastened its destruction. 

Its basis, as we have seen, was the inward witness of the Holy Spirit 
certifying to the Christian soul that the Scriptures were " the Word 
of God." But everywhere men felt a blind desire for an external 
authority, well defined and strong, which they might set over against the 
Catholic Church. The inward witness, belonging to the subjective moral 
order, often obscure, uncertain, and fluctuating, could not set up such 
an authority without doing violence to its own nature. How was it 
possible to make the Holy Spirit the judge of controversies over ques- 
tions of text, canon, historic criticism, without making it an oracle of 
ignorance and fanaticism? 

The Arminians and Socinians intervened here. By what signs, they 
asked, can you make sure that the voice which you take for that of the 
Holy Spirit is not a vain imagination, the echo of your own prejudices, 
or even the suggestion of a spirit of blindness and error.? ^ If you 
intrench yourself in your personal conviction, justifying it by no reason, 
could not the Jew say of his Bible, the Mohammedan of his Koran, all 
that you say of your sacred Scriptures? These are comprised of dif- 
ferent parts of very unequal value ; are all their pages equally 2dif ying ? 
Do they all awaken in the Christian consciousness the immediate assur- 
ance that they proceed from God? Are not those who beheve themselves 

* Episcopius, " Inst. Theol.," Pars iv,, sect. 1, c. 5, Amsterdam, ed. 1650, p. 235. 
P. Bayle, Comm. phil, upon the words, " Compel them to come in." 



to have the witness of the Holy Spirit within themselves, like a super- 
natural voice, the victims of a very common psychological illusion, which 
a little reflection and analysis would at once dissipate?^ 

Those who first advanced these objections had no desire to destroy the 
dogma. Quite the contrary ; they believed themselves to be reconstruct- 
ing it upon a firmer basis. To establish the divine authority of the 
Scriptures, they said, we need resort neither to the external decisions of 
the Catholic Church, whose traditions are without authority, nor to the 
inward witness of the Holy Spirit, which is illusory. The two modes 
of demonstration are equally supernatural and irrational; it is enough 
to have recourse to history. We can prove the authenticity of the bibli- 
cal books by historic testimony and purely rational argument ; from their 
authenticity we may deduce the truth of the miraculous history which 
they contain, and in this history we find the divine warrant of their origin. 
In terms of the schools this is to found the fides divina of the Bible, its 
divine authority, upon the fides humana, the veracity of historic wit- 

This new theory, the direct reverse of seventeenth-century ortho- 
doxy, has become the current orthodoxy of our own time. 

The chain of reasoning is as follows: the books of the New Testa- 
ment, especially the Four Gospels and the Epistles of Paul, are by the 
authors whose names they bear. Of this a very well-grounded tradition, 
going back to their time, leaves no room for doubt. These writers were 
able to know the truth about Christ, and they were willing to tell it. 
They were able: for they had been the companions of his life, the wit- 
nesses of his acts, and the hearers of his discourses. They were willing; 
since to suppose otherwise is absurd. Therefore, the miracles of Jesus, 
and especially his resurrection from the dead, are established facts. But 
such facts could not have taken place without the supernatural inter- 

' Reimarus, in the Fragment, " Unmoeglichkeit einer Offenbarung," p. 39, 118. 
- Episcopius, ibid. Limborcb, "Theol. christ.," I. 4, 6; F. Socinus, " De Auctorit. 
Sacr. Scripturae." 


vention of God. God himself, therefore, has attested that Jesus of 
Nazareth is his Son and that his teaching came from heaven. That 
they might receive it, guard it, and transmit it in its original purity, 
the apostles received the Spirit of God, who kept their tongues and 
pens from all error. Add to all these miracles the fulfilment of the 
prophecies, and you have established by exterior material proof the 
divine authority of the Old and New Testaments. 

Thus, it was thought, the dogma of authority was saved. The con- 
trary very soon became evident. It was not necessary to possess great 
scientific acumen in order to perceive the insufficiency of the deduction 
and realise the fragility of the links of which it is composed. How could 
it be hoped to gain anything by putting the testimony of men in the 
place of the divine witness of the Holy Spirit.'' What is man, that he 
should be the sufficient security for God.^* The famous dilemma " neither 
deceivers nor deceived " is so weak and so loosely constructed that the 
whole reality of human history, a tissue of prejudices, illusions, uncon- 
scious errors, ignorances, and preconceptions, easily passes through it. 

Then arose historic criticism with Louis Cappel, Spinoza, Richard 
Simon, Jean Leclerc, Grotius, and many others; it soon showed that 
nothing is more obscure, complex, almost insoluble, than those questions 
of the date and authorship of the biblical books, most of which are anony- 
mous. And were the solution of these problems of Hterary history easier 
than it is, how overlook the fact that historic knowledge, by its very 
nature, never arrives at absolute certainty, but simply at a higher or 
lower degree of likelihood and probability ; that therefore there is an 
incompatibility between it and religious faith, which demands perfect 
certainty? How should the latter be subordinated to the former.'' 
Where shall the assurance of salvation be found, if salvation depends 
upon the result of my critical researches? What shall simple believers, 
ignorant Christians, do, if their peace of conscience depends upon ques- 
tions which the learned never cease to discuss, and which they them- 
selves cannot understand, much less answer? 


We hear Lessing rebelling against the pedantic conditions imposed 
upon Christian faith : " Cease trying to suspend in your spider-webs 
the weight of an eternal destiny of joy or torment ! Did the old scholas- 
ticism ever inflict graver wounds upon religion than this historic exe- 
gesis? It cannot be true that a misstatement or delusion can be found 
in the biblical writers ! It cannot be true that among the thousands and 
thousands of things which we have no reason to doubt, a single imaginary 
(jr erroneous thing can be found! But if this possibility exists, what 
becomes of all your deductions? Would it not have been better to leave 
these new weapons of yours to rust in their arsenals? How, indeed, can 
accidental facts become necessary truths, unless they are the expression 
of moral or religious verities already existing in the human understand- 
ing? Between history and metaphysics there is an impassable gulf. 
You present to me the miracle of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. I 
may very probably be unable to refute the accounts given by the biblical 
writings. But what conclusion will you draw from my inability, which 
may quite as probably arise from my weakness and the incompleteness 
of the documents as from the truth of your thesis and the force of your 
arguments ? " ^ 

Things have so far changed, indeed, that the miracles and prophecies 
which then constituted the great proof of the biblical revelation are now 
that part of revelation which most needs to be proved. The majority 
of Christians in our day believe in the miracles of Jesus because of his 
Gospel, not in the Gospel because of his miracles. 


The Pros^ress of Biblical Criticism 

It was nothing less than a revolution when the biblical question was thus 
carried into the domain of history. By degrees men came to study those 

» Lessing, " Sendschreiben: Ueber den Beweis des Geistes und der Kraft," 1777. 


books in the same way as other documents of antiquity, and to apply 
to them the same rules of criticism. Historical and literary problems 
presented themselves which they were morally compelled to resolve by 
the same methods. As soon as they gave themselves to this investigation 
with some degree of freedom they at once discovered in the sacred authors 
many things till then obscured by the golden halo with which they were 
surrounded; things which it became more and more difficult to square 
with the time-honoured theory of a supernatural and divine origin. 

Comparing, for example, the two narratives of the early life of 
David, which we find in the First Book of Samuel, Bayle made the reflec- 
tion that, if we were to find such a lack of sequence, such repetitions and 
contradictions, in Thucydides or Titus Livius, we should not hesitate 
to infer some grave alteration and disarrangement of the text. In vain 
did he prudently add that such suspicions should be carefully guarded 
against in the case of the Bible. Such rhetorical precautions seemed a 
cruel irony; they neither satisfied anyone nor gave a check to research. 
How shall criticism be refuted when it still more boldly affirms that, from 
a moral point of view, an action which is bad in the sight of eternal law 
is always bad, even when performed by a man who is endowed with divine 
inspiration ? 

The biblical writers were very far from claiming the prerogative 
of supernatural infallibility. In the preface to his Gospel Luke recom- 
mends himself to his readers like any ordinary historian, by the zeal and 
care with which he has investigated facts and marshalled them in his 
narrative in the best order and with the greatest exactitude. Why 
should we not bring other documents to our aid in judging of the rela- 
tive success of his attempt? The Apostle Paul exhorts the Christians 
of Thessalonica and Corinth to judge for themselves of what he writes 
to them, to prove all things. If in certain places he appeals to a com- 
mandment of Christ, in others he declares that he is giving only his 
personal opinion, which he carefully distinguishes from the commands 
of the Lord. It is true that at times he speaks of revelations received 


when in an ecstatic state, but he never gives it to be understood that 
God himself inspires his words, his reasonings, his citations, or the ideas 
that came spontaneously from the natural action of his mind or the 
memory of past experiences. In his style, his polemic, his way of laying 
down and defending his theses, the originality of his character and his 
entire personality are portrayed in vivid hnes. 

Very often, too, the sacred writers express themselves conjecturally 
or in an uncertain manner concerning things upon which the Holy Spirit 
might and could have given them entire certainty and precise informa- 
tion. With the progress of grammatical exegesis, and in the degree 
with which age-long prejudices were dissipated, it was impossible not 
to perceive important discrepancies; for example, between the Books of 
Kings and Chronicles, between Ezra and Nehemiah, between the four 
Gospels, or again, between the Epistle to the Romans and that of 
James concerning justification by faith. Finally, how can the theory of 
verbal inspiration be reconciled with the fact that the New Testament 
quotations from the Old very often do not correspond with the Hebrew 
text and sometimes contradict it.? The prophet Micah, for example, 
had said : " But thou, Bethlehem, too small to be one of the branches 
of Judah," etc. But Matthew wrote : " And you, Bethlehem, land of 
Judah, are in no wise least among the princes of Judah." Again, we 
see James, in his discourse reported in Acts xv. 16 ff., citing Amos 
ix. 11, according to the Septuagint version, but in complete contra- 
diction of the Hebrew text. The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, 
following the same Alexandrian version, makes the Psalmist say (xl. 7) 
" a body didst thou prepare for me," while in the Hebrew we read, 
" Thou hast digged (or opened) mine ears." All these observations, 
of small importance in the natural order of things, were mortal wounds 
to the doctrine of a supernatural verbal inspiration. The theory of 
divine accommodation to human errors and passions served for a while 
to excuse the deceptions and wholesale exterminations so often attributed 
to the command of God. But it was impossible long to pay men with 


this counterfeit coin. As for certain biblical passages wliich seem to 
claim divine inspiration for the sacred books or for their authors, not 
to say that their sense is forced to distortion, can we not perceive the 
circle in which those are shut up who would try to prove the inspiration 
of the Bible by statements of the Bible itself? 

Textual criticism was not less fatal to the dogma than exegesis. 
Searching out and collecting the manuscripts, collating the writings of 
the Fathers and the ancient versions, scholars accumulated various read- 
ings on the margins of the New Testament, demonstrating that, though 
the sacred text had been most piously preserved, it had by no means 
escaped the accidents that befall human things; that differences had 
accumulated in proportion as copies had been made; that it was, there- 
fore, often necessary to be content with conjectures and probability; 
and that since the pure, original text could not be restored with any 
degree of certainty, the doctrine of verbal inspiration, usque ad voces 
et consones, no longer applied to anything, and had become useless. 

At the same time the critical examination of the tradition as to the 
date, origin, and authorship of the books of the Bible showed its mistakes 
and untrustworthiness. It was felt that this entire subject needed to 
be revised. Hobbes, Spinoza, Richard Simon, Jean Leclerc, certainly 
did not discover the truth as to the composition of the Pentateuch, but 
they perceived that a diversity of elements had contributed to it, and 
clearly saw that instead of deriving from Moses, the earliest redaction 
of these books was far later. This being the case, the books were anony- 
mous, and it was impossible to say to whom the supernatural prerogative 
of inspiration was to be attributed. The same was the case with Job, 
which, according to Leclerc, has no other truth than that which poetic 
verisimilitude demands in a tragedy. The prophets may have had 
visions and divine revelations. But their discourses were put into writ- 
ing by themselves or their disciples after having been spoken, and we 
possess only fragments of them. Esther and Judith " are stories told 
at the writers' pleasure." Nowhere do we find any indication of verbal 


inspiration, and it must be added that none of these writers, for the 
most part unknown, dreamed of claiming it. Piety, natural ability, 
and religious patriotism are a suflScient explanation of works in which 
things good and bad, shadow and light, are mingled together. 

Criticism approached the books of the New Testament with more 
timidity. Nevertheless the freedom of judgment which Luther showed 
with regard to several of them was not entirely extinct. Here Richard 
Simon and certain Jesuit scholars opened a new path, which others soon 

Simon showed clearly that the titles put at the head of the Gospels 
and the Acts to make known their authors are a late addition, and there- 
fore not exempt from investigation ; he maintained that Matthew had 
originally been written in Hebrew, and that we possess only a Greek 
translation whose fidelity can be guaranteed by the Church alone. He 
very pertinently discussed the authenticity of the last twelve verses of 
Mark, disproved that of the passage in 1 John v. 7 about the three 
witnesses, denied that the Epistle of the Hebrews was from Paul's own 
pen. In short, he revived, though with his habitual prudence, all the 
uncertainties and differences of opinion which we find among the Church 
Fathers as to the list of canonical and non-canonical books, the homo- 
logoumena, the antilegomena, and the apocrypha. No doubt he strove 
to reconcile all these literary facts with the reality of inspiration, but 
he profoundly modified the idea of inspiration. He was especially fond 
of using it as a weapon against the Protestant dogma, and to show that, 
after all, the only basis for the divine authority of the Scriptures was 
the present authority of the Church. But in that case what does the 
latter rest upon? Cathohcs and Protestants, equally embarrassed 
before the witness of history, can escape its testimony only by shutting 
themselves up in vicious circles. Jean Leclerc developed the criticism 
of Richard Simon, and Semler, treading in their footsteps, went still 
further along the path they had opened. All questions were raised, and 
men began to get glimpses through the veil of dogmatics of an entirely 


new historic reality, which our own age was at last to bring to the open 
light of day. 

Under the influence of this criticism the dogmatic authority of the 
Canon of Holy Scripture also vanished away. The notion of the " Word 
of God " was changed. The two notions, Canon and divine Word, 
parted company, since they no longer coincided. The English Deists, 
Tindal especially, strained every nerve to show how little, or how ill, 
certain books of the Bible answer, either by their origin or their con- 
tents, to the idea which we cannot but form of the Word of God. How 
was it possible to maintain the authority of the Old Testament as equal 
to that of the New, approve equally the sanguinary intolerance of an 
Elijah and the gentleness of Jesus, consider as pleasing to God, or even 
commanded by him, the cruelties of Joshua and David, the falsehoods 
of Abraham, the schemes of Jacob, the thefts of which the Hebrews in 
their flight were guilty with regard to the Egyptians, etc. ! Was it not 
evident that, though the Bible might contain the Word of God, it also 
contained other things in no wise especially divine; for example, docu- 
ments of national history, the legislation of a long-outgrown religion 
of rites and statutes, and fragments of a literature which has no specifi- 
cally religious character, like the Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes, the story 
of Judith, or the heroic songs of ancient Israel? 

Finally, if we discard the authority of the Church, how can the 
present limits of the Canon be justified? From the point of view of his- 
tory, can it be explained why the Son of Sirach is excluded and Eccle- 
siastes admitted? Who will precisely define the boundary which sep- 
arates the canonical from the apocryphal books? Are not the Book of 
Daniel and the Second Epistle of Peter supposititious? If we build 
upon the witness of the Holy Spirit, can we maintain with sincerity that 
its testimony never falls short of and never overpasses the limits of the 
traditional collection in use in the Churches?^ 

Orthodox dogmatics might show itself indifferent to questions relat- 
ing to the human origin of this or that biblical writing; it rested its 

' Appendix LXXV. 


faith upon God alone, the sole and original author of the Bible, and God 
could as well make use of an unknown writer, or one far removed from 
the facts he relates, as of an apostle or an eye-witness. But the Ar- 
minian theology, which claimed to found the fides divina upon the fides 
humana, that is to say, the divine authority of the Scriptures upon the 
historic veracity of the authors, could not enjoy the same serenity. If 
the history of Jesus was in question, it could not be a matter of indiffer- 
ence to it whether its authority was the work of a compiler of popular 
traditions or the authentic memoirs of the Apostle Matthew. The 
Fourth Gospel had not equal weight according as it was held to be a 
writing of John the son of Zebedee or of a theologian of the Alexandrian 
school. Thus it is easy to imagine what influence historic criticism and 
exegesis, with their disconcerting conclusions, were likely to have upon 
this theology. 


Concessions and Compromises. — The Triumph of Rationalism 

To say truth, since the sixteenth century there have always been men 
of moderate spirit who have made a stand against the logic of orthodoxy, 
and more or less accurately limited the divine revelation to matters which 
concern the salvation of the human race. The Arminian theory espe- 
cially made concessions of this sort necessary, and, once entered upon 
this path, they found it becoming ever wider and wider.^ 

Hugo Grotius set the example; being one of the creators of gram- 
matical exegesis, he was led by it to make distinctions between the canoni- 
cal books and to note degrees in their inspiration. If inspiration was 
necessary to the prophets it does not follow that it was necessary to 
the historians. It sufficed that the authors of the historic books of the 
Bible should be of good faith and profound piety. Inspiration was 
therefore limited by Grotius to the prophets, the apostolic revelations, 
and the words of Jesus, which are the words of God himself. For all 
» Episcopus, " Instit. Christ.," I. 4, 10; IV. 1, 4. 



the rest the miraculous aid of the Spirit of God was needless; just judg- 
ment, scrupulous honesty, and the love of truth were sufficient/ 

Following Grotius, Jean Leclerc was bolder still. Holding more 
strictly to history, he limited inspiration to those prophecies, command- 
ments, and doctrines of the Bible which were in express terms attributed 
to God himself. Yet he claimed the right to examine, to correct, to 
doubt, all parts of the Bible. ^ It was a singular position. From this 
point of view there were inspiration and divine authority only where the 
miracle of a direct supernatural communication had occurred. 

The permanent action of the Holy Spirit in the religious soul in 
general, and in the Christian soul in particular, was denied or ignored. 
Thenceforth there remained only the violent and abrupt antithesis of two 
reciprocally exclusive terms : the authority of revelation and the natural 
reason. Where one was established the other must submit and be 

The critical reason, however, continually gaining ground, the field 
of revelation, like that of miracle, necessarily diminished to the vanishing 
point. It was an easy matter to embarrass Leclerc by asking him what 
notion he had of the Word of God, if it was to be recognised wherever 
the letter of Scripture made God speak in person, and only there! Is 
there in the Bible no such rhetorical figure as the prosopopasia .'* For 
one can hardly set down to the account of God the sanguinary orders 
executed by Joshua and his successors. Leclerc admitted this, but this 
last frail barrier overturned, what was left to him except the inward 
criterion of conscience and the reason? The inconsequent theology of 
Arminianism was in reality only a transition to the rationalism of the 
following age. 

This dualism of revelation and reason, that is, of two terms exter- 
nally limiting and excluding one another as two heterogeneous sources 

^ Grotius, " Votum pro Pace Eccles.," p. 672. 

^ J. Leclerc, " Sentiment de quelques th^ologiens de HoUande," 1685, Letters XL, 
XII; "Defense des sentiments," Letters IX., X., Amsterdam, 1686. 


of knowledge, is the fundamental characteristic of the supematuralist 
conception of religion and the universe. Rationalism was already in 
the method; it could not but sooner or later appear in the doctrine. 

The transformation thus taking place in the extremes of Protes- 
tantism, among the Socinians, the Arminians of Holland, and the Eng- 
lish Deists, spread to the very centre, the most conservative circles. 
Theologians most firmly bound to the ancient dogma felt constrained to 
relax their bonds. This was especially the case with the Saumur school 
in France. Cameron distinguished between the Word of God, originally 
oral, and the same Word afterward committed to writing, and was more 
concerned with the divine inspiration of the doctrine than with that of 
the books which contained it.^ His successors, Louis Cappel, Amyrault, 
Joshua de la Place, though they repeated the time-honoured formulas, 
were not limited by them. The first was not thereby deterred from 
his critical studies of the text of the Scripture and its history, nor 
the two others from speculating on the universality of grace and the 
imputability of Adam's sin.^ The historical and critical spirit was 
developed and extended by the labours of Daille and Blondel.^ 

Violent disputes agitated the churches and divided the synods. An 
ecclesiastical assembly' held in Geneva, in 1675, drew up the formula of 
the Consensus helveticarum ecclesiarum, as a dam across the current. 
Never was more apparent the vanity of authoritative proceedings, their 
radical inconsistency with the principle of Protestantism. Half a cen- 
tury later the dam was carried away. The orthodox formula and the 
arbitrary sanctions which upheld it were officially abolished in Geneva 

^ The English theologian, Baxter, was of the same opinion. " It is necessary 
for salvation to believe the doctrine, not books. There is something human in the 
method and the expression, which are not so immediately divine as the doctrine," 
" The Saint's Everlasting Rest," 

° " Syntagma thes. theolog." in Academia Salmuriense, 1664. It is apparent in 
this collection, however, that the doctrine of the inspiration of the books was more and 
more exaggerated till it reached verbal inspiration with Stephen Gaussen, " Theses in- 
augurales de Verbo Dei," 1655. 

» Appendix LXXVI. 


itself, thanks to the efforts of the son of him who had contributed most 
to their estabHshment/ 

From this time Arminian and Socinian rationalism crept in every- 
where, into catechisms and sermons, and substituted its vague para- 
phrases for the older formulas of orthodoxy. Reason and revelation 
are originally equally revered powers. But the preponderating author- 
ity soon passes over to reason, for it is an admitted axiom that Scripture 
can contain nothing absurd or immoral, and if anything is found 
therein which appears so to be, it must be interpreted according to reason 
and the conscience. 

In England and Germany the same movement went on with more logic 
and greater depth. Official teaching was compelled to make graver and 
graver concessions. The inspiration of the words was first abandoned, 
except as refuge was found in the morally disquieting theory of an 
accommodation of the Holy Spirit and his organs to the prejudices and 
errors of men of the time. In the ancient dogma of revelation there 
were three elements: the divine impulse {impulsus ad scribendum) ^ the 
suggestion of the matter {suggestio rerum), and the inspiration of the 
words (suggestio verborum). Of these three elements, the first and 
third totally disappear, and the second, which alone appears important, 
is reduced to a simple direction of the intelligence and the memory, which 
preserved the sacred writers from serious errors. 

The mystic witness of the Holy Spirit, bringing to the soul imme- 
diate confirmation of the truth of Scripture, is no longer admitted, nor 
even comprehended.^ The apologists confined their demonstration to an 
appeal to history and the reason. But the testimony of history, more 
and more invalidated by criticism, inevitably ended in a general doubt, 
and the testimony of the reason, which soon became dominant, effected 
the transformation of revelation into moral philosophy, and of positive 
into natural religion. 

In England more than elsewhere men cultivated the historical method 
^Appendix LXXVII. » Appendix 1-XXVIII. 



of demonstration by means of the prophecies and miracles/ It proved 
powerless to meet the philosophic criticism of Locke and Hume. If we 
take the Old Testament prophecies literally, it is clear that they were 
not fulfilled in the New, and the claims of Christianity are false. If 
we interpret them allegorically, it is still clear that they prove nothing, 
for there are no ancient texts that may not thus be adjusted to a later 

The argument from miracles is even less weighty. Supposing them 
to be true, they prove nothing, for a healthy reason would simply believe 
itself to be in presence of phenomena whose causes it fails to grasp. 
How shall a positive demonstration be drawn from an avowal of igno- 
rance ? Is it not easier to make the conscience accept the moral teachings 
of Christ than to convince the reason of the reality of miracles and of 
his corporeal resurrection?^ 

If this moral doctrine constitutes the permanent and essential ele- 
ment of Christianity, natural religion logically takes the place of revealed 

In the same way the supernaturalism of the German theologians, 
the victim of its own inherent dualism, by degrees gave place to a more 
consistent and radical rationalism. The apologetic of men like Baum- 
garten, Crusius, Toellner, availed itself of the philosophy of Leibnitz and 
Wolff ; it was introducing the enemy into the citadel. We do not appre- 
ciate the power of reason. Wherever it takes possession it commands, 
recognising no tribunal above itself. To prove by rational argument 
the truth of any doctrine whatever is to make it a rational truth. The 
reasonableness of an argument implies and necessarily establishes the 
reasonableness of the conclusion. 

It availed nothing to assert that the Christian doctrine is above 

'W, Whiston, "The Accomplishment of Scripture Prophecies," 1708; N. Lardner, 
"The Credibility of the Gospel History," 1727-57; Th. Chalmers, "The Evidence and 
Authority of the Christian Revelation," 1834. 

* D. Hume, " Essay on Miracles." 


reason but not opposed to it, for of two things one is true: either this 
superior doctrine has no relations with the reason, and the reason in that 
case cannot recognise it, but it must be accepted blindly; or else the 
reason accepts it because of motives of which she can understand the 
value, and the doctrine necessarily enters the domain of rational verities. 
It was often said that revelation is to the reason what the telescope is 
to the eye. But the eye sees what is in the speculum, and in the last 
analysis reason judges of it. Reduced to the simple function of a tem- 
porary auxiliary, either to shorten the route or to hasten the progress 
of humanity, revelation would not only lose its former sovereignty, but 
it would soon disappear, since the progress of reason would render it 
progressively less needful. Religion shut up within the limits of the 
reason — this is the point where the critical movement, begun with Grotius 
and Leclerc, ends in the philosophy of Kant and the theology of Weg- 
scheider.* The dogma of plenary inspiration drags with it into its final 
ruin the notion of revelation itself. 


Latent Germs and New Methods 

Rationalism made an end of scholasticism, without essentially differing 
from it. It was and it affected in the nineteenth century that which 
nominalism was and did in the fifteenth. It is the expression of a like 
dialectic movement; it is scholasticism turning again back upon itself, 
and pulling down its own erections by means of the very method by which 
it had built them up. 

Reimarus, Voltaire, or Tindal had no other idea of religion than 
Quenstedt or Calov. To all men of that age the Christian religion was 
a supernatural science, a system of doctrines which some held to be true 
and others false. As the former explained it by the hypothesis of a 

' I. Kant, " Die Religion innerhalb d. Grenzen der blossen Vernunft," 1793; Weg- 
scheider, " Inst. Theol.," 2d ed., 1817. 


divine intervention the latter always found it possible to attribute it to 
clerical trickery, and this they did not fail to do. 

With the triumph of Enghsh Deism the religious atmosphere seemed 
to clear; in reality, it simply grew colder. Men sought a foothold in 
the middle ground of common sense in philosophy, and in middle-class 
integrity in morals. Practical religion, bereft of warmth and ideal, 
was reduced to the art of living well, and turning to the best advantage 
the good things of the earth. It was all a matter of reason and reflec- 
tion. Inspiration was dead, the hidden springs of the spiritual life 
seemed to be dried up. Natural religion, which men tried to build up 
on the ruins of all earlier beliefs, was as lacking in vitality as in poetry. 
It was insufficient as a philosophical hypothesis ; as an educating and 
governing power it appeared inefficacious and consequently useless. As 
to the traditional religion, it seemed to live on merely by force of habit. 
Dogmas and ceremonies persisted, but only as empty fonns. The tree 
was still deeply rooted in the ground, but shaken by the storms of winter 
it had lost its flowers and fruit; only the bare trunk with its skeleton 
of dead and leafless branches stood up against the low-hanging sky. 

Historical criticism and exegesis had been the potent auxiliaries of 
rationalistic religion, and had indeed assured its victory. But in reality 
they represented an independent power, which could no better accommo- 
date itself to the tyranny of rationalistic dogmas than to those of ortho- 
doxy. The history of exegesis during the rationalistic period is only 
too clear. Rationalism, essentially abstract and metaphysical, was no 
more alive to history than to religious inspiration ; it had no insight into 
the diversities of times, races, and capacities. To it primitive humanity 
was an unknown region ; it has caught no glimpse of the spontaneous 
burgeoning of the mysterious and profound child-soul of humanity, 
with its myths and legends, its poetry and its dreams, another language 
than the prose of a cold rationalism. Why should we wonder, then, 
that it was unable to appreciate the biblical documents, and deemed that, 
having settled the question of the supernatural and divine authority of 


the sacred volume, the whole matter was settled and done with? But 
the time for a new revelation was at hand, which would restore to the 
modem spirit that religious faculty which it seemed to have lost, and 
to the science of history that freedom which it needed in order to com- 
prehend and revive the spiritual conditions of the earlier time. 

The seeds of this new harvest had long been germinating, unperceived 
in the historic soil of the Reformation. Under the most arid desert 
sands there is always living water, which, gushing forth here and there, 
produces a vegetation which, however far from luxuriant, is yet always 
fresh and young, and attests the immortal power of life. Such were 
the movements at this time produced under the influence of the disciples 
of Spener, Wesley, and the Moravian Brethren. These pietists did not 
discuss the external authority of Scripture ; they did better ; they fed 
upon the spiritual food which it offers to the soul, and if they were in- 
capable of solving questions of origin and exegesis, or of proving the 
formal authority of the biblical collection, they learned all the more 
to know its inward worth by moral experience. Thus it became a matter 
of demonstration that theology was not religion, nor correct dogma 
faith. It appeared clearly that Christianity was something other than 
the abstract thesis of the supernatural authority of a book, that it had 
in itself that which justified it immediately to the soul; and assurance of 
faith was shown to be something other than historical research or philo- 
sophical discussion. It was found that Calvin was right when he said 
that it was the property of Christian assurance to have a higher sanc- 
tion than human reason : the inward witness of the Holy Spirit. From 
the purely formal principle of the Reformation, that is, the external 
authority of the Bible, on which for more than a century everything 
had been baJsed, men turned with more or less intuition and logic to 
the essential principle, to the religious and moral substance, the enfran- 
chising doctrine of justification by faith ; that is, to the immediate appre- 
hension by the repentant and believing soul of the divine gift, of the 
Father's grace in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Such is the important 


revolution which, effected without observation in the middle of the 
eighteenth century, brought about the striking religious revivals of the 
nineteenth. Premonitory signs were multiplied, and prophetic voices, 
ever clearer and more numerous, proclaimed the new era. 

First was heard the uncertain, passionate, eloquent voice of Jean 
Jacques Rousseau. To appreciate the religious originality of Rousseau 
we must compare him with Voltaire. Both indeed are Deists and ration- 
alists, but the first has something which the other lacks — religious emo- 
tion, the electric spark of life. Emotion, in fact, is the very life of 
religion, because it alone can show that the human soul has recognised 
the divine guest which it carries in itself, and has given itself to it. 
With Rousseau the soul looks from without inward, and beneath the 
barren activity of the discursive reason rediscovers the deeps springs of 
sentiment and inspiration, all the life of the heart, with its intuitions, its 
needs, and its secret reasonings which the reason knows not of. 

It is the upspringing of this intense subjective life which makes 
the originality and power of Rousseau's eloquence. Just as he dis- 
covered the true soul under the conventions and artifices of civilised life, 
the feeling for nature under praises of an ornamental country seat, the 
passion of love under gallantry, so he discovered inward religion under 
the practices and traditions of the Church, the gospel of Christ within 
the scaffoldings of theology. Historical demonstrations of the truth 
of a religion on which depend the eternal destiny of individuals tended 
rather to awake than to dispel his doubts. A series of historic testi- 
monies, all fallible, heaped up to establish a divine infallibility, seemed 
to him absurd. " How many men," he cried, " between God and me ! " 
Yet, when he opened the gospel and gave himself up to reading it, he 
felt, with deep emotion, its sovereign attraction. " The majesty of the 
Scriptures astonishes me; the simplicity of the Gospels speaks to my 
heart." Thus religious thought, with still uncertain steps, made its 
way from the surface to the heart, from the study of the tree to the taste 
of the fruit, instinctively trying to substitute the inward experience of 


faith, which is the essential principal of the Reformation, for the purely 

formal principle of the divine authority of the book/ 

In Germany the voice of Lessing arose more clear and penetrating. 
His mind, like a pure diamond which not only cuts, but sparkles, reflected 
in its fires all aspects of the time-consciousness, while with its trench- 
ant edge it laid bare the secret vice of fallacious apologetics. He was 
at once a marvellous dialectician and a prophet, a rationalist and a mys- 
tic. In the very heat of battle he sowed the seeds of a new harvest. 
His criticism breathed through authoritative theology and conventional 
literature like healthy spring breezes. Through the irony of his 
paradoxes and apologues flowed a generous sap. " If God," he boldly 
said, " were to offer me in one hand the immutable truth and in the other 
the search for truth, I should say in all humility, ' Lord, keep the abso- 
lute truth ; it is not suited to me. Leave to me only the power and the 
desire to seek for it, though I never find it wholly and definitively.' " 
This is not scepticism, it is faith ; it is the lively sense that truth is not 
a sum of clearly defined knowledge, but loyal and upright activity 
of thought and the normal growth of the mind itself. The truth is 
formed in us because we have first of all to form ourselves in it. The 
first condition of having the truth is to be in the truth. 

It is a still more fruitful thought that the truth has no need to make 
itself known by exterior sanctions, such as prodigies and miracles. The 
intrinsic qualities of evidence and persuasive influence are its true marks, 
given it by God to open its way to all upright hearts. The Christian 
religion has no need of the frail supports with which theology seeks to 
prop it ; it has always been, and still is, proved by its own virtue. " If 
the paralytic feels the beneficent shock of the electric spark, and so 
regains power to walk, what matters it to him whether NoUet or Frank- 
lin, or indeed neither of them, was right in his theory of electricity ? " 

It is not because the Christian religion is in the Bible that it is true ; 
it is because it is in itself true that, when you find it in the Bible, you 
' Roasseaa, " Emile," Book IV., " Letters from the Mountain." 


say that the Bible teaches the truth. The Christian religion does not 
rest upon the Bible ; we can discuss the origin and value of the one with- 
out attacking the truth of the other. The Christian religion existed 
before a*single book of the Bible was written and canonised ; it would still 
exist even if the early Christian books had disappeared. To put the 
Bible in its true place is not to depreciate it. Without the slightest 
doubt it contains revelation ; it is not revelation. There are in it many 
things entirely foreign to religion. How shall we help making the dis- 
tinctions that common sense indicates ? Do they of Hamburg neglect to 
distinguish net weight from gross weight, and to separate the merchan- 
dise from its packing? 

" The letter," says Lessing emphatically, " is not the Spirit. The 
Spirit acts through the letter, but it is not bound to it. It blows where 
it will, and it blows everywhere. Oh, Luther, thou hast delivered us 
from the yoke of tradition! who shall deliver us from the yoke of thy 
letter ? " ^ Lessing is a prophet of the religion of the Spirit. 

This is not to say that there are not many inconsistent elements in 
his writings. He is of his time, though he overpasses his time. To feel 
his vivid originality we must compare him with Reimarus, whose pene- 
trating editor he was. Reimarus is a man of the past ; he reasons with 
the premisses of scholasticism ; he has the same conception of revelation 
and religious inspiration as Goetze and the other orthodox pastors whom 
he exasperates. When they say, " Miracle, communication from 
heaven," he cries, " Imposture and priestly ambition." One explanation 
is as good as the other, and both are of precisely the same order. In 
both cases the natural, living fabric of history is arbitrarily rent, either 
by the divine will or by the human will. Rationalists and supematural- 
ists of this kind give an equal shock to Lessing's historic and his religious 
sense. In his own way he transforms the idea of revelation; it is not 

'Lessing, " Theol. Schriften.," 2te Abtheil, I. pp. 261, 262. See, especially, the 
little tracts; Sendschreiben: Ueber den Beweis des Geistes u. der Kraft; Eine 
Parabel; Axiomata, Les repliques et dupliqes a Goetze; Religion Christi und Christ- 
liche Religion. 


a quantum of doctrines formulated once for all with absolute rigour: it 
is something living, or rather, something inherent in the spiritual life 
itself, the constant action of the Spirit of God in the human conscience 
to awaken and purify it, to lift it step by step to the full light of truth, 
justice, and fraternal love. No historic religion is absolutely true, but 
also none is entirely false. They all enter the divine plan of history, like 
successive moments, with a relative legitimacy. Revelation is a peda- 
gogic ; it is God carrying on the progressive education of humanity. 

If Christianity is the perfect religion, it is just because in it the 
Spirit of God appears absolutely independent of the letter and of rites. 
In his most excellent historical creations he always remains ideal and 
transcendent: he asserts himself in sovereign freedom. By degrees, and 
not in a book, but in souls, not with ink, but in practical truths and in 
sentiments of love, he indites his supreme revelation, " The Eternal 

All is not clear in Lessing's thought. His Christianity consists of 
certain eternal verities entirely disconnected with history. History is 
not only incapable of establishing them ; it continually contradicts them. 
There is no bridge by which to pass from the domain of historic facts, 
which are accidental, to the domain of the eternal reason. There is an 
absolute antithesis between the immutable and the contingent, between 
God and the world. Therefore, the very idea of a divine education of 
men by history becomes impossible. This is the radical vice in Lessing's 
system ; by this as yet unresolved dualism he belongs to the time of Wolff 
and of natural religion. In order that there should be an education in 
history there must be a progressive revelation of the divine reason in 
history itself, the metaphysical truth must be immanent in human devel- 
opment, the divine Word must be made flesh, that time and eternity, 
history and metaphysics, may be reconciled. Thus the Christian reli- 

* Lessing, " Abhandlung iiber die Erziehung des menschl. Geschlechts." On the 
character of Lessing's Christianity see F. Lichtenberger, " Hist, des id^es rel. en AUe- 
magne," I. p. 67; J. A. Dorner, "History of Protestant Theology." 


gion will finally regain its value and dignity as a historic force. Lessing 
announced the impending revolution without feeling in himself the 
strength to inaugurate it. He invoked the advent of a stronger thinker 
than he. He was only a precursor, and he knew it. The Messiah of 
the new era was Schleiermacher.^ This great man is at the turning 
point of the age. With him Luther's reform returns to its creative 
principle, — ^justification by the faith of the heart, — and Protestantism 
enters upon a new phase. 

Schleiermacher's antecedents predestinated him to his work. From 
the Moravian Brethren who brought him up he received the endowment 
of a warm, intense piety, yet sufficiently free on the dogmatic side. His 
thought had been formed in the dialectical school of Plato and Spinoza. 
Thence the two constituent elements of his theology : the religion of the 
heart considered as an irreducible fact of experience anterior to any 
religious theory, and an intellectual strength of extraordinary rigour 
and force. It would have been morally impossible for him to subordi- 
nate one element to the other. " Reason and sentiment," he wrote to 
Jacobi, " live in me apart, but contiguous. It is a sort of galvanic pile, 
the spark of which creates the activity of my mind." To reconcile senti- 
ment and reason, to find the scientific theory of his religious faith, was 
his life task, the endeavour of his thought. If there are some discrep- 
ancies in his attempted synthesis, if the philosopher and the Christian 
within him are not always in accord, it is doubtless because the solution 
of the problem can never be more than approximate, and still remains 
not the work of one man, but the historic task of humanity. 

The common error, both of the rationalists and the supematuralists, 
who were waging a venerable but sterile warfare in the arena of theology, 
was to consider faith as a sum of traditional doctrine, which one party 
deduced from reason and the other believed to have fallen from heaven. 
By both methods equally religion was reduced to an intellectual opera- 
tion. Schleiermacher took from under the combatants the very ground 
on which they were fighting. Faith, he said, is not a doctrine nor a 

» Appendix LXXIX. 


system of doctrines, it is neither a dogma nor a precept received from 
nn exterior authority, it is vital piety, the inward tendency of the reli- 
gious sentiment itself; it is the loving and joyful recognition of the 
relations of the soul with God. Being an independent, original, psycho- 
logic act, faith then becomes an object of observation and a fact of 
experience, not of individual experience alone, but of collective experi- 
ence, a historic fact, permanent in the very life of the Christian Church, 
and making itself known as such to philosophic reJBection, whose task it 
is to understand it and labour to make it intelligible. This labour is 
the part of theology. Faith is not the effect, it is the cause of the 
dogma. To confound the two is as unreasonable as to confound the phe- 
nomena of nature, which physics is investigating, with the successive 
explications which physicists have given them.^ 

By such teaching, the basis of the old dogmatic was displaced and 
the very nature of theology transformed. There could then be an ex- 
perimental science of religion, a positive science which had for its task 
to observe, classify, and rigorously concentrate the religious phenomena, 
ranking not below the other sciences, but side by side with those in the 
encyclopaedia of human knowledge. Thus to conquer independence for 
religion, and for the science of religion its uncontested legitimacy, is the 
most eminent service which Schleiermacher rendered at once to religious 
faith and to philosophy. 

With him the Protestant conscience finally passed the strait which 
separates the theology of authority from the theology of experience. 
Religious truth could no longer be given by an oracle; henceforth it 
must spring out of Christian experience itself, and never cease to repro- 
duce itself in pious souls, under the permanent influence of the Spirit 
of Christ. Holy Scripture could no longer be the foundation of faith ; 
it became an auxiliary, a means of grace. In the doctrinal system built 
up by the dialectic of Schleiermacher, the Bible no longer takes its place 
in the foundation, but on the summit of the edifice. No doubt it con- 
' F. Schleiermacher, " Der christl. Glaube," Einleit., sect. 15-31. 


tinues to be a production of the Holy Spirit, but of the Holy Spirit 
considered as a collective spirit, the historic soul of the Church, the 
immanent divine principle of her earthly life and activity. The witness 
of the Spirit to Christ in the New Testament is not essentially different 
from its witness to him in the works of the centuries following. There 
is not at any moment an exterior and visible passage from the super- 
natural to the natural ; the divine and the human are constantly mingled 
in all writings which are truly Christian. The superiority of those of 
the apostles and their immediate successors lies in being primitive, and 
by so much the more original, and in having been composed under the 
still living influence of the person of Christ, which was not the case with 
any who came later. The water of the stream is always purer near the 
spring than in its later current. Thence come the peculiar dignity 
and historic authority of the New Testament books. They remain the 
norm of Christian tradition because they are its oldest and most authentic 
documents. As for the Old Testament, the Bible of Judaism, it is not 
of especial interest to Christians, since it brings them only memories of 
an earlier religion, superseded and abolished by the new religion. 

To sum up, the authority of Holy Scripture cannot be the object of 
faith, nor can it even be the basis of faith in Christ; on the contrary, 
it is faith in Christ which makes the Christian and which alone makes 
it possible for him to recognise the peculiar authority of Scripture. 
Formerly men went from the Bible to Christ; henceforth men will go 
from Christ to the Bible. Faith in Christ, a life in communion with 
Christ, the transformation of our evil self by his word and spirit, are 
effects in the exclusively moral order, and immediately justified to each 
conscience in which they have taken place. The Bible, the canon, and 
the books which constitute it, are historic and literary phenomena which 
it is neither legitimate nor possible to withdraw from the researches and 
authority of criticism, exegesis, and history.^ 

Thus in Protestantism was begun the evolution of the religion of 
» " Sendschreiben an D. Luecke," II., " Studien u. Kritiken," 1829, p. 496flF. 


the letter toward the religion of the spirit. The work of Luther was 
prolonged without inconsistency; it was freed from the shreds of 
Catholicism which for more than two centuries had painfully encumbered 
it, and enabled to concentrate itself and find life in its own peculiar 
principle of personal faith and immediate experience of truth. Yet was 
the struggle not ended. The past was again to make itself felt in a 
singularly violent attack. Battles like these must be won more than 
once before victory is assured. Yet the issue could be no longer doubt- 
ful. Schleiermacher had opened a door to the future which no one would 
thenceforth have power to shut. 




Revival and Reaction 

Religious forms and institutions consecrated by an age-long tradition 
may appear outworn and dead; but inevitably every awakening of the 
conscience turns to their profit and gives them a new lease of life. They 
are like those hardy vegetations which the summer sun dries up, to be 
revived and grow green again with the first dews of the autumn sky. 

The deepest springs of the soul's life had been reopened by the com- 
motion of those great catastrophes, the Revolution and the Empire.^ 
The optimistic rationalism and the facile life which had characterised 
the preceding age had vanished. Everything had seemed to crumble 
away together in the fearful storms which brought home to every man 

' In the French-speaking countries this movement has received the name of the 


the insufficiency of his own powers and his own light, and had awakened 
within him the tragic sense of the mystery of things and of his own 
destiny. Passing through a succession of events whose rapidity dizzied 
him, he gained in this flight of things a clearer vision of the eternal 
and the infinite, and felt a vague desire to shelter himself in them. Here, 
as always, his imagination outran his intelligence. Regret for the loss 
of his youthful faith first awakened a longing for it, and soon gave him 
an impression of having found it again. 

In default of convictions he had emotions ; he was touched with the 
poetry of the ancient faith; he experienced again the mystic influence 
of cathedrals and religious rites. This revival was not very profound, 
but it was very vivid. Romanticism was its expression and its flower. 
All branches of art found their youth again. Religious enthusiasm 
performs miracles of this sort : as soon as it begins to breathe in a man 
all the faculties of the soul begin to bloom.^ 

The religious revival was complicated with a political reaction. The 
Revolution had cast down throne and altar ; both must be raised up. 
People began to blush for things of which the preceding century had 
been proud. That century had combated dogmas in the name of philos- 
ophy and reason; people set themselves to restore the dogmas and to 
make reason bend to faith. They had carried liberty to the wildest 
license; with equal passion they threw themselves into the arms of 
authority, and made it an absolute theory, as they had made an absolute 
theory of liberty. Joseph de Maistre, de Bonald, Lamennais, each in 
his own way and by arguments of his own magnified the theocratic 
order; they set forth its principles and unfolded its eff^ects with a sin- 
cerity of logic which made its vices and perils only the more apparent 
to the common judgment. 

It is interesting to find everywhere analogous processes and identical 

reasonings in the most dissimilar countries and the most antagonistic 

Churches — all being moved by the same needs and the same tendency of 


» Appendix LXXX. 


In Protestant theology the resurrection of the dogma of the plenary 
inspiration of the Scriptures responds to the theory of papal infalli- 
bility in Catholicism. Everywhere men were raising up idols by way 
of escape from anarchy and doubt. The blind desire to find somewhere 
a visible, undebatable authority, silenced all objections and overcame all 
scruples. The all-powerful a priori effected precisely this. The ques- 
tion was not whether the Bible and the Pope were really infallible; the 
point was to show that they must be so. The Protestant Gausscn reasons 
precisely like the Catholic Maistre. They do not agree as to the organ of 
divine infallibility, but each will have his own ; each chooses it according 
to his tradition and preferences, but he justifies it by the same argu- 

Contemporaneously with the reawakening of the religious sentiment 
two other forces had sprung into a new and incomparable life, the science 
of history and natural science. At first, far from embarrassing or 
opposing religion, they appeared to render it service. Did not Newton's 
heavens declare the glory of God as strikingly as David's? Were not 
piety and the historic imagination equally stimulated by the " Martyrs " 
of Chateaubriand and the novels of Walter Scott? But the inconsis- 
tency blazed forth as soon as the religious sentiment sought to command 
respect and influence by reviving the dogmas and formulas of the Middle 
Ages. The cosmos of the modern world had become too large to be shut 
up in the limits of ancient thought. 

The generation which came upon the stage with the new century 
was like a man who, having reached maturity, expects nothing more of 
life, sighs for the dreams of childhood while knowing himself powerless 
to go back to them. Thus the men of tlie time, swaying between the 
desire to believe and the impossibility of believing what tradition offered 
them as religious trutli, fell into a melancholy quite as much compounded 
of piety as of scepticism. Doubt often appeared to be more religious 
than faith. We remember Schiller's saying : " Why hast thou no reli- 
gion — for religion's sake." It was as necessary to renew ideas and in- 


stitutions as sentiments. But both intellectual and moral vigour were 
wanting for such an enterprise. A few choice spirits proclaimed the 
necessity of a reformation, but these infrequent prophets were either 
misunderstood or unheeded. 

In general, men were content with attempts at conciliation which 
veiled the difficulty, but did not cure it. They sewed patches of new 
cloth upon the old garment, but the resulting rents were so much the 
worse. It is enough to recall the memorable history of Lamennais and 
his journal VAvenir. The painful crisis of which Jouffroy gives the 
story in a celebrated essay was not less significant.^ Nearly all the great 
souls of that age had their Gethsemane night. 

This state of mind was at that time universal. But nowhere is it 
more pathetically revealed than in England. And this is entirely ex- 
plicable; as the English have at once profound religious needs and a 
very vivid sense of reality, it was unavoidable that they should suffer 
more than others in the inevitable conflict which in this revival period 
was waged between their religious tradition and their general culture.^ 

In Germany bibhcal science and the Kantian philosophy were in the 
forefront of the struggle. The new theology wliich Schleiermacher, de 
Wette, and others endeavoured to deduce from it offered no strong point 
of resistance against men of the Church and the government, who exer- 
cised authority and carried on the work of propaganda. The people 
were all unaware of the new conceptions, elaborated in university halls. 
As in England Puseyism upheld the authority of Cathohc tradition and 
the efficacy of the sacraments as a refuge for battle-tossed souls, so 
in Germany the new Lutheran orthodoxy, supported by pietism, fell 
back upon the sixteenth-century Confessions of Faith and the infallible 
authority of the letter of Scripture. Neither English Puseyites nor 
German neo-Lutherans perceived the hazard to the Church and the 
menace to the Protestant principle in methods which in fact were the 

* " Comment les dogmes finnissent.," " Melanges philosophiques," 1833. 
^ See, for example, Francis Newman's " Phases of Faith," 1849. 


most violent of anachronisms. History sometimes resembles, but never 
repeats itself. The old wine-skins, in which they sought to secure the 
wine of the new vintage, must inevitably soon burst and the wine flow 
forth in all directions.^ 

In French-speaking countries the most brilliant and logical theorist 
of the faith of authority and the literal inspiration of the Bible was 
Louis Gaussen, a pastor and professor at Geneva during the first half of 
the century. His name has become the ultimate symbol of a doctrine 
which his ability as a writer succeeded in galvanising into a brief life. 

By a logic of extraordinary simplicity he presented it in a form 
equally simple. The Canon of Holy Scripture, that is, the collections 
of writings to-day included within the covers of a Protestant Bible, was 
made by God himself and given to the Church in the beginning with the 
express prohibition of ever adding anything to it or taking anything 
away from it. It was a great historic miracle concerning which history 
is indeed silent, but which we must accept because otherwise there is no 
certitude upon which faith can rest. The Bible thus constituted claims 
to be itself the pure word of God. It must therefore be accepted as such 
in all its parts and even in its letter. It is of small consequence what 
were the names of the men who in divers times and by divers manners 
held the pen which wrote these books. They were only the instruments 
of the Holy Spirit, who is the sole author and as much responsible for 
the style of these writings as for their thought. Neither reason nor 
conscience has a word to say before this divine text. When God speaks 
man has but to be adoringly and submissively silent. Gaussen was both 
preacher and poet ; but he was by no means a severe thinker. Otherwise 
he could not have failed to see, first, that his initial assertion, the Bible 
in all its parts claims to be the word and the work of God, was false, 
and, in the second place, that supposing it to be historically true, the 
reasoning with which he supports it is simply a vicious circle.* 

* Appendix LXXXI. 

* L. Gaussen, " Th^opneustie, ou inspiration plenifere des S. Ecritures," 2d ed., 
1842; "Le Canon des S. Escrit.," 2 vols., 1860. 


Periods of reaction are thus far useful, that in pushing outworn 
ideas to the extreme they make manifest their error and thus hasten their 
extinction. It is a sort of demonstration by the absurd. Gaussen had 
both disciples and rivals before formulating his theory. After that 
event he was left isolated in his own field. Thinkers hastened to disown 
statements which they deemed compromising, and a deduction whose only 
fault was its logic. They protested energetically against the rational- 
istic distinction between the Bible and the Word of God, without, how- 
ever, saying how it was possible or permissible to identify the two. They 
were driven to more and more serious concessions as to the inspiration of 
the Book, while yet clinging to the dogma of its infallibility. They 
seemed not to perceive that a tribunal ceases to be infallible the very 
moment men feel themselves at liberty to discuss its decrees, to adopt some 
of them and disregard others. 

A situation so full of ambiguities and inconsistencies could not last 
long. A revolution was imminent. Two superior minds prepared its way 
by their endeavours to avert it. The first was Samuel Vincent, who de- 
fined modem Protestantism in the words : " Free investigation is its 
form; the gospel of Jesus Christ is its substance." This was a suffi- 
ciently clear statement that Protestantism claims no extrinsic authority 
before which reason and conscience must bow; that the gospel is suffi- 
cient to itself, and claims acceptance by intrinsic evidence of its worth.' 

At the same period Alexandre Vinet, who, in his discourse with de 
Wette at Basel had perceived how frail was the foundation of external 
authority upon which dogmatics was resting the truth of the Christian 
religion, bent all his powers to the task of giving it a more secure basis. 
He found it in the experience of the Christian soul itself, in the profound 
harmony between the need of sinful man and the offer made by God in the 
person and work of Jesus Christ.^ In two respects this discovery opened 

'Samuel Vincent, " Vues sur le protestantisme," 1829, republished by Pr6vost- 
Paradol in 1860, under the title: " Du protestantisme en France." 

' A. Vinet, " Etudes et nouvelles evangdliques. Vide art. " Vinet," in the " Encycl. 
des sc. relig.," Vol. XII. 



a way out of the subjective principle of Protestant piety, checked and 
repressed for two centuries by the dogma of external authority. It was 
a return to the liberating principle of the inward witness of the Holy 
Spirit, giving to that its true significance and bearing ; it was the shift- 
ing of religious authority from without to within, and the preparation, 
on the very principle of the Reformation, for a reformation not less 
radical than that of the sixteenth century. 

With the incomparable advance made by criticism and biblical 
exegesis during this first half of the century, a death struggle be- 
tween the ancient dogmas and their conclusions became inevitable. 
The historic method was fast becoming an exact science, and even 
as it was practised, for example, by Edouard Reuss at Strasburg, 
a religion.^ Men could no more be conscientiously untrue to it than to 
a command of God. For its one purpose was to discover the actual char- 
acter and true meaning of these books under the abstract and erroneous 
presentation of the old dogmatic. Let now a clear and logical mind 
appear, inheriting the fervent piety and rigid dogma of the Revival, 
and trained in a free university to the conscientious practice of the his- 
toric method ; the inconsistency of the two will be intolerable to his own 
conscience, and in the loyal endeavour to free himself from it he will 
awake the conscience of the whole Church with a great shock. Such a 
man was Edmond Scherer. 


The Final Crisis 

The struggle which from 1848 to 1860 was going on in Scherer's soul 
awoke so wide an echo and exerted so great an influence because it gave 
form and manifestation to an idea which many minds had been secretly 
brooding. In the first outburst of his thought there was nothing new 

*Ed. Reuss, "Hist, de la Th6ol. chr^t. au si^le apostolique," 1852; " Histoire du 
Canon des S. Ecritures," 1862; "La Bible," 1874-80. 


except the vigorous reasoning and language with which he brought into 
relief the antagonisms latent in the consciousness of the time. Such 
indignation or surprise as arose was due to the fact that one religious 
society more than another was disturbed that its inward sore should be 
unveiled, and its true picture held up before it in living outlines. 
Scherer's criticisms, the confessions of a soul pious even to ecstasy and 
sincere even to impossibility of compromise, constrained every man to 
look within himself, and each found there more or less of the same conflict 
between a superannuated theology and a new historical culture. Numer- 
ous voices at once uprose in reply to the voice which rang abroad as that 
of a liberator ; they revealed the same condition of inward suffering, and 
the same resolve to be free. Thus was born the spontaneous movement 
that produced the Revue de theologie et de philosophie chretienne of 
Strasburg, which for twenty years exerted so decisive an influence upon 
religious thought in France.^ 

A profound moral conversion and a fervent piety which hardly 
stopped short of visions had led Edmond Scherer in early life to accept 
the Revival dogma of the total inspiration and infallible authority of 
the Scriptures. There was hardly a shade of difi^erence between his 
thought on this point and the theory of Gaussen, his colleague of Geneva. 
Called by his lectures on " Biblical Criticism and Exegesis " to justify 
this ancient dogma, he saw it to be denied by so many patent facts, so 
many actual observations, that he could not continue to uphold it, and 
as his frankness of speech was equalled only by the disinterestedness of 
his thought, he had no hesitation in at once confessing the change 
through which he had passed, and presenting his resignation as Professor 
in the Oratoire Theological School of Geneva. It was the year 1849, 
and he was then thirty-four years old.^ 

Historically, Scherer's criticism makes no new discovery and adds 

' Vide in vol. i. of the Revue, pp. 1, 9, the articles by T. Colani, " Avant-Propos," 
and Edouard de Pressens^, " Le Progr^s de la doctrine chretienne et ses conditions," 
July, 1850. 

'Appendix LXXXII. 


nothing to the observations accumulated in the same line by Richard 
Simon, Jean Leclerc, Lessing, Semler, and the German theologians of 
the nineteenth century. Whence, then, came the new importance taken 
on by the same facts under his pen? Doubtless it was due to circum- 
stances, to the state of mind created by the Revival, to the theological 
illusion revived by the new faith, but it owed much to the dogmatic char- 
acter which Scherer's criticism at once assumed. It tended less to rectify 
inexact historic knowledge than to displace the very basis of the Chris- 
tian religion. It was the last attack upon the faith of authority ; 
Scherer was sapping the foundations of the entire traditional edifice 
of the past, and under its ruins, like Samson overthrowing the 
pillars of the idol temple of the Philistines, he was doomed to be 

Men have never ceased to point an awful warning from this result. 
Those who cultivate the theology of fear have found in it the condemna- 
tion of criticism itself. But criticism is no more an instrument of de- 
struction than a means of salvation. Its sole purpose is truth. To 
proscribe it is deliberately to doom one's self to falsehood. The rela- 
tively negative attitude taken by Scherer with regard to traditional 
belief is as much the responsibility of those who defended it as of him- 

The conquest of truth, like every other conquest, implies arduous 
fighting, and every battle has its victims, whom we ought to be wise 
enough to honour when they have devoted themselves absolutely to a just 
cause. Is anything in this world more holy than the love of truth.'' 
Far from being mutually hostile, the love of truth and the love of God 
are identified in souls heroically sincere, who neither would nor could 
enjoy communion with God at the price of known delusions fostered by 
selfish calculation. Until the end Scherer loved the truth more than 
anything in the world; to it he sacrificed his rest and consecrated the 
labour of his life. Yet we do not say that he was always without fault 
or weakness — he himself made no such boast — but we do say that he 


was more faithful to his early dreams, to his earthly mission, and to the 
Spirit of Christ, than many Christians who had no better reply to his 
arguments than excommunication. 

The struggle would have been less acute and the reaction less violent 
had the dogma been less rigid. The more the Revival had concentrated 
the Christian religion in the dogma of the Scriptures, the more Christian 
truth appeared to be endangered when the dogma fell to pieces. Nothing 
is easier to understand. An external authority which insists upon being 
believed on its own assertion and merits must appear to be impeccable. 
The first proved error robs it of its privilege of infallibility, and im- 
poses upon the aroused reason the duty of submitting all its assertions 
to a loyal scrutiny. The more these assertions are considered necessary 
to the moral life and the soul's salvation, the more imperative becomes 
the obligation to verify them one by one. The method of observation 
and experience thus necessarily takes the place of the method of author- 
ity. It is no longer a matter of correcting the excesses of some par- 
ticular dogma. A radical revolution is taking place. 

With such a change in method we have not only a change in the char- 
acter of results, but the quality of faith becomes different. To believe 
that a doctrine is true because it is in the Bible is something entirely 
different from saying that it is in the Bible because it is true. In the^' 
former case the external supernatural authority of the Bible alone decides 
as to truth: in the latter the Christian reason and conscience are the 
supreme tribunal. In the first case the Christian vacates his inde- 
pendence of thought; he judges of religious things according to the 
judgment of others; in the second, he judges of them for himself. In 
one case he is under tutelage to a letter which for him is law; in the 
second he is in the royal liberty of a child of God, guided and s^istained 
by the Holy Spirit. 

Under the rule of exterior authority there must always be an inter- 
mediary between man and the truth, and this is a remnant of Catholi- 
cism ; under the rule of the Spirit there is immediate contact between the 


consciousness and truth, and we return to the first and true principle 
of the Reformation. 

Scherer's glory and merit was to have understood from the first the 
bearing of the impending crisis, and to have interpreted it as a new 
struggle between the Catholic and the Protestant principles. It is im- 
possible to be too grateful to him for having revivified the latter in the 
Reformed Churches by showing with inexorable logic that Protestant- 
ism would become a stunted, fickle, and superstitious Catholicism, that 
it would lose its inward salt and its whole reason for being, if it did not 
itself complete the work of transferring the authority of religion from 
without to within, if it did not effect its own inward transformation by 
rising from a religion of authority to the religion of the Spirit. 

Nothing is better adapted to bring out, even at this late day, the 
power of Scherer's criticism, than a reading of the replies which it 
elicited.^ The confusion was universal. The defenders of the old sys- 
tem mutually refuted, and so to speak, cancelled one another by the 
diverse inconsistencies of their arguments. Thus Jalaguier, the wisest 
among them, disavowed the indefensible exaggerations of the thorough- 
going theopneustics ; he fell back, however, upon the weak arguments 
of the Arminians and Socinians, and endeavoured to base the divine 
authority of the New Testament upon the reality of the miracles, and 
their reality upon the authenticity of the books and the historical good 
faith of their authors. He did not perceive the vagueness of this notion 
of authenticity when applied to a literature which is in great part anony- 
mous or pseudonymous, how contrary it is to the Christian spirit to 
judge the doctrine by the miracles, instead of judging the miracles by 
the doctrine. Nor did he perceive how impossible it is for a historical 
demonstration of this sort, so distant from the facts and in such ob- 
scurity regarding them, never reaching anything but a greater or less 
probability, to satisfy the requirements of a truly religious faith which 
yet can find rest only in absolute certainty. M. de Gasparin entered 
the arena in his turn, and loftily proclaiming the Insufficiency of a 

» Appendix LXXXIII. 


method which suspends the truth of the Christian religion upon the 
uncertainties of a historic and human demonstration, considered only 
one argument valid : Jesus Christ had cited the books of the Old Testa- 
ment as infallible; therefore the Old and the New Testament must be 
equally so. 

In the first place it is not true that he cited all the Old Testament 
books and thus sanctioned them all ; it is especially not true that he cited 
them as infallible, since he had in himself a higher revelation, which not 
only made him independent of the ancient letter, but gave him the right 
to controvert and reform it. He brought out from it some luminous 
truths, no doubt, but by the very fact of this new light he cast into the 
shadow of the past the law of Moses. The example of Christ proves 
the contrary of what these writers sought to deduce from it. 

A third party appeared, who, unable to close their eyes to evidence, 
granted the facts actually proved by exegesis and criticism, but arbi- 
trarily limited their significance. Unable to maintain the absolute char- 
acter of the infallibility of the Bible, without which infallibility does not 
exist, and unwilling to break with the dogma of authority, these theo- 
logians maintained a sort of indefinite and limited infallibility, a fallible 
infallibility which it is simply impossible to define. It is the sovereignty 
of Scripture maintained without hability for obligations. To appre- 
ciate the singular character of this position, the position of what has been 
called " modern orthodoxy '* or " qualified orthodoxy," we may picture 
to ourselves a very pious Roman Catholic who should profess the infal- 
libility of the Pope on condition of being permitted to revise and author- 
ise his decisions. 

In England a crisis was developed at the same time and with even 
greater intensity. In the early years of the century writers of ability 
had begun, side by side with the preaching of the Revival, to open to 
English thought the criticism of Lessing, the philosophy of Kant, the 
pious free thought of Herder and Schleiermacher. The flood of roman- 
ticism bore upon its troubled waves the most various elements, from the 


sacramentarian mysticism of Oxford Puseyism to the soul conflicts of 
Coleridge and the daring utterances of Francis Newman and many other 
minds which had awakened to doubt. The storm broke, the separation 
took place, and about 1860 a new situation appeared. The publication 
of the celebrated volume " Essays and Reviews," followed by Bishop 
Colenso's work on the Pentateuch, stirred up England almost as much 
as Strauss's " Life of Jesus " had moved Germany twenty-five years 

The value of these two rather commonplace works does not explain 
the noise they made and the influence they exerted. Their historic im- 
portance depends rather upon the conditions that produced them. The 
first was in great part the work of a group of professors of the Uni- 
versity of Oxford, already the centre and headquarters of the Puseyite 
movement; the second bore the name of a dignitary in the Anglican 
Church, a missionary bishop in South Africa. Critical theology with 
its analytical method had notably entered the Established Church. 
Would it be possible to expel it and check its influence.'' 

The burning point of the controversy was always the same; the 
authority of the Scriptures, the basis of all English piety, was falling to 
pieces under the actual discoveries of history. In vain was the attempt 
made to reassure troubled minds by the assertion that these criticisms 
bore only upon external details of no moral importance. English com- 
mon sense understood perfectly that something quite different was in 
question, that in these exegetical discussions the whole question of reli- 
gious authority was involved; that the Bible could no longer be read as 
in the former times, that a single one of its affirmations recognised as 
false or obsolete compelled the re-examination of all the others; that 
faith could no longer be understood as the subordination of the mind, but, 
on the contrary, that it called for activity of thought and freedom of 
judgment quite as much as humility of heart and obedience of will. Since 
that time, the revolution has made its way in England as elsewhere. It 
has crossed the ocean. It is going on in all the Churches of America, 


whatever their constitution and symbol, forcing itself everywhere, even 
upon those who repel it, for the only weapons with which it can be 
fought are those by which it has hitherto won the day. 

In Germany, however, the struggle was carried on upon a larger 
scale. It is most instructive to see the same experiment, made under 
differing conditions, verifying and confirming itself wherever it is 

Biblical criticism inaugurated by Lessing and Semler took on in the 
German, Swiss, and Dutch Universities an ever more irresistible momen- 
tum. With de Wette, Baur, Credner, and Reuss it became a purely his- 
torical science, a chapter of literary history in which the dogma of 
theopneustics no longer found a place. The doctrine was no longer 
opposed; it was eliminated. 

A graver symptom was that the basis of dogmatics had been dis- 
placed. After Schleiermacher it was no longer the infallible authority 
of the text of Scripture, as in the seventeenth century ; it was the ex- 
perience of faith, which, in the last analysis, rests upon itself. Thus 
it should suffice to itself and recommend itself solely by its moral evidence 
and actual efficacy. Strauss in 1841 told the history of the dogma 
of inspiration, and by the history itself explained its dissolution and 
registered its decease.^ These evangelical theologians who refused to 
follow him to the end were none the less obliged to use a more and more 
severe historic and critical method in refuting him, and thus they spread 
tlie pestilence by their very attempts to stamp it out.^ 

Especially instructive is the history of Lutheran orthodoxy, which 
had been at first galvanised by the pietistic and romantic revival. 

Desiring above all things to restore a system of authority, it groped 
about for a principle upon which to support it. Now it clung to the 
Confessions of Faith and the institutions of the Church, and again to 
Scripture, unable to decide to which finally belonged the supremacy. 

* D. Strauss, " Die chrisl. Glaubenslehre," 1840-41, vol. i. pp. 75-353. 
'Appendix LXXXIV. 


Two tendencies in particular appeared, two mutually opposing and de- 
structive theologies, one intrenched in the University of Rostock, the 
other finding its citadel in that of Erlangen. 

In the north of Germany the important matter was the disciplinary 
and political point of view. The reaction was led by men who treated 
theology as lawyers and law as theologians. At bottom the advocates 
of authority have only one argument: the equal need of it by Church 
and State for their own continued existence. The question was no longer 
whether the Confessions of Faith and the Bible are infallible, but whether 
they ought to be. During this time Hengstenberg, to save the letter of 
the Bible, succeeded in compromising it by strange expedients ^ which 
his fertile imagination and varied erudition had a never-failing Supply. 
Others, like Stahl or Kliefoth, found it simpler to submit the interpreta- 
tion of Scripture to the authority of the sixteenth-century Confessions 
of Faith and the constituted ecclesiastical authorities. Under pretext 
of safeguarding the work of the Reformation, they thus ended by deny- 
ing its principle and restoring the opposing Roman Catholic principle, 
namely the subordination of the Bible to the official tradition of the 

In South Germany, at Erlangen, on the other hand, it was sought 
to bring the Church back to faith and life by the sincere culture of theo- 
logical science. The biblical revelation was put above all else. But 
the Protestant principle, thus maintained and conscientiously applied, 
produced once again its inevitable consequences. 

In the attempt to correct and perfect the ancient dogmas in the 
name of Scripture, men altered them in important respects and thus 
inevitably fell under the accusation of heresy. Thomasius, for example, 
fundamentally overturned the Christology of Nicasa and Constantinople 
by his theory of the Kenosis, according to which the divine Word in the 
incarnation was really stripped of its metaphysical attributes and, as 
it were, destroyed. In like manner Hofmann overthrew St. Anselm's 
theory of Redemption and replaced it by a more profound and more bib- 


lical conception. Concessions more and more important were made to 
criticism and modern thought. There were even some Rotable defec- 
tions. Kahnis, who had at first been caressed as the Benjamin of 
Lutheranism, passed over one fine day to the camp of independent the- 
ology. And more recently still, the venerable Delitzsch, after having 
fought for forty years on the side of the traditional views of the Old 
Testament, bowed before Wellhausen's criticism and yielded up to him 
his shattered weapons.* 

Reference must here be made to the thoroughly subjective notion of 
the " Word of God " finally adopted by Frank, the most rigid dogmatist 
of the Erlangen school. The believer no longer finds the assurance of 
faith in an exterior authority, a divine infallible letter, but in Christian 
experience itself. The Word of God is a word of man with all his in- 
firmities, ignorances, and errors, but penetrated by the Spirit of Christ 
and animated by his power of life and of salvation. Thus the Word 
of God is not shut up within the limits of the ecclesiastical canon, nor 
within these limits is it everywhere equally pure or equally discernible. 
Not the writings, but the writers, are inspired, and these according to the 
measure of their faith. Between their inspiration and that of Christians 
who came after them there may be a difference of degree; there is no 
difference of kind. Are we very far from the biblical thesis of Scherer 
or of Schleiermacher .? ^ 

Nothing in Protestant theology could prevail over the historical 
method and principle. Those who tried to arrest the current sooner or 
later found themselves carried along by it. This revolution was different 
from that of the eighteenth century. Voltaire and his disciples had no 
more the historic than the religious sense. On the other hand, a deeper 
piety inspires the new criticism. Prayer accompanies the discussion of 
the texts. What life is inwardly more consecrated to the truth than 
that of de Wette, or of Baur, Kuenen, or Reuss, or many other Protes- 

* F. Delitzsch, " Neuer Kommentar uber die Genesis," 1887. 

» Frank, " System der christl. Gewissheit," 2 vols., 2d ed., 1881, etc 


tant Benedictines of our age, whose indefatigable labour, innocent of 
all lower motive, rises like a magnificent hymn to the God of truth? The 
Church may feel small concern for the attacks that come from without, 
from adversaries who, not having in themselves even the germ of reli- 
gious faith, cannot comprehend the dogma which she puts forth; but 
quite otherwise must it be when criticism comes from within, and when 
the Christian spirit of her best sons protests against forms and ideas 
which it can no longer accept. Reform then becomes urgent, if a catas- 
trophe is to be avoided. 

It was Richard Rothe, one of the most pious of German theologians, 
who took upon himself the task of deducing the conclusions from this 
long history and drawing up the final sentence of the old theopneustic 
dogma. Energetically maintaining his faith in the supernatural char- 
acter of the biblical revelation, he yet freely handled the text and the 
books of the collection itself, giving back to them their human and 
historic character. A miraculous action of the Spirit of God, substi- 
tuting itself for the activity and intellectual responsibility of the sacred 
writers, an oracular infallibility communicated to the letter of Scripture, 
transforming it into a doctrinal code which the Christian thinker has 
only to open, a collection made and sealed by God himself to separate 
his work from that of man, were to him abstract fictions and vain super- 
stitions. Therefore, he added, the ancient dogma is not to be in part 
reformed, it should be abandoned in its entirety. To hope to ameliorate 
it by attenuating it is to remain entangled in intolerable conditions. 
Sincerity makes this course a duty, and logic a necessity. There is no 
middle term between the rule of the letter and that of the Spirit. As 
of old, in the time of St. Paul, we must choose between the Law and the 
Gospel, between the spirit of servitude and the spirit of liberty.^ 

• R. Rothe, "Zur Dogmatik," fid art.; "Die heilige Schriften," 2d ed. Vide 
Lichtenberger, " Hist, des id^es relig. en Allemagne," etc., Vol. III. 



The Last Bulwark of the System of Authority 

Constrained to abandon the ancient positions, the advocates of author- 
ity fell back upon another. If, said they, infallibility does not belong 
to the entire collection of the Bible, it surely belongs to the words of 
Jesus Christ. Is not to believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, sent 
forth by his Father, to be a Christian.? And is not every discussion of 
the Words of Jesus Christ a lapse from Christianity? For theologians 
who thus reason, there is no question of the moral and religious authority 
by which Jesus and his Gospel command the conscience, but simply of 
the letter of the words put by our evangelists into the mouth of Jesus ; 
and of their having been preserved in a collection and a code in which 
infallibility Inheres, a body of notions of every kind, religious, moral, 
scientific, which must be accepted without examination or discussion — 
with joy when the reason is convinced, with submission when it is not, 
and even though it protest. 

How shall we shut our eyes to the fact that this new position taken 
by the theologians of authority, far from being inexpugnable, as they 
imagine, has already been flanked by criticism and rendered more diffi- 
cult to defend than all the others.'' A link is missing from the chain of 
reasoning, or rather, this necessary link has been hopelessly broken. 
It serves nothing to invoke the infallibility of Christ if the infallibility 
of his first historians has already been sacrificed to historic criticism. 
Have the words of which they seek to make a divine code, binding to 
the intelligence in each article, been transmitted to us without error, 
without misapprehension or mixture? If I must needs discuss this 
preliminary question, it is clear that I shall equally submit to discussion 
each saying of the Master whose literal meaning appears to me obscure 
or forced or inadmissible. I shall come to doubt whether it was entirely 
understood, or perfectly preserved by tradition ; I shall ask whether the 
evangelists lost nothing of their Master's discourses or whether they did 


not unconsciously mingle with them something of their own thought. 
Does not this question suggest itself with regard to the words of Christ 
as to the end of the world and his own near return? And again, who 
can read the long discourses of the Fourth Gospel, perceiving their dia- 
lectic, their peculiar colour and style, without attributing a larger or 
smaller part to the personal inspiration of the historian and to his 
theology ? 

Unquestionably, the words of Jesus in the first three Gospels bear 
a general stamp of living authenticity ; but if we go on to the letter and 
to details, how many well-nigh insoluble questions arise? Which, for 
example, was the original form of the Beatitudes; that preserved by 
Luke or that given by Matthew ? Where shall we find the actual words 
of the institution of the Lord's Supper, in Paul or in Mark? Of those 
passages in which Jesus predicts the ruin of Jerusalem, which is the true 
report? Such problems present themselves on every page of the three 
synoptic narratives, and the most sagacious exegetes give them different 
answers. It is impossible to reconstruct with certainty the Logia of 
the Lord. 

These difficulties can be very naturally explained when we put our- 
selves in presence of the real history. Jesus spoke an Aramean dialect 
which is now lost. His words were always occasional, often paradoxical, 
always picturesque. He complained bitterly of the unintelligence of his 
hearers and even of his most intimate disciples. They themselves 
acknowledged it.^ These discourses, collected at random, had been on 
the lips of the people for about forty years in widely known oral tradi- 
tion before being fixed in writing. They served as themes for preach- 
ing, as weapons in controversy. They were translated into Greek as 
occasion required, with new forms for which no one assumed the respon- 
sibility.^ Such was their condition when the evangelists collected them 

' Matt. xi. 16, 25; Mark iv. 12, 23-25; Luke xxiv. 25; Matt. xv. 17, xvi. 8, 23; Mark 
ix. 13, 32, 38; x. 24, 38; John ii. 22, iii. 10, xvi. 12, xiii. 7, etc. 
•Appendix LXXXV. 


for their gospels some half century after the death of him who had 
uttered them. The fundamental harmony of this triple production 
undoubtedly proves the general authenticity of the teaching of Jesus, 
and permits the historian to grasp with certainty its master thought 
and true accent, and the gospel of Jesus, understood in the religious 
sense, is certain to live forever, manifesting its creative virtue through 
all the ages as in the earliest years. But, at the same time, the irre- 
ducible differences and persistent obscurities of our three equally canoni- 
cal texts forever make it impossible to frame the letter of that infallible 
code of which some Christians ever dream. " My words," said Jesus, 
" are spirit and they are life." As to the spirit, the gospel is immortal ; 
as to the letter, it is impossible to effect its authentic restoration. 

But there is a yet graver question. In those words which histori- 
cally are most certainly those of Jesus, how shall we not make a distinc- 
tion between those common ideas which served as the framework and 
vehicle of his religious thought and the thought itself; between the 
notions which he had received from tradition or the current opinions of 
his people, and the original intuitions and inspirations which sprang 
from the depths of his consciousness.? To communicate the latter must 
he not have borrowed not only the language, but the general methods of 
expression in use among his contemporaries.? As Jesus belonged to his 
race by flesh and blood so he belonged to his generation and his time by 
such general knowledge as he might have of the world, its history and 
geography, of the courses of the stars, of celestial and subterranean 
regions. To remove Jesus of Nazareth from the conditions of every 
human existence, to deny him a natural development, the effect of home 
influences and social education, to endow him from the cradle with all 
knowledge and holiness, is to call in question his true humanity ; it is to 
make him not divine, but an impossible, extra-natural child, a being 
fantastic and false, such as he is pictured in certain apocryphal gospels. 
It is indeed directly to controvert the statements of our Gospels, one of 
which at least says that he grew in wisdom and grace,^ while the others 

* Luke ii. 52. 

1. 1 


paint him in vivid colours as a true Galilean among men of the same 
blood, the same language, the same religious tradition as himself. 

Therefore we must not be surprised when very conservative theo- 
logians, with Mr. F. Godet at their head, resolutely break with the old 
Christology and deny the infallibility of Jesus. For his general culture 
he was reduced, like us, to the testimony of his senses and of men who 
were his contemporaries, ivnd to national traditions bequeathed by their 
ancestors. This avowal, once made, opens a breach which cannot again 
be closed. What may in future pass through it criticism alone can tell. 
For Mr. Godet, for example, the opinions of Jesus as to the Mosaic origin 
of the Pentateuch or the Davidic authorship of Psalm ex. are simply 
traditional opinions which leave untouched the freedom of modem science. 
His son, Mr. Georges Godet, goes a step further. He judges that it is 
not possible to attribute to Jesus the views of Newton or Laplace as to 
the structure of the universe, and that he probably held those which we 
find in the first chapters of Genesis.^ Next comes M. Leopold Monod, 
with the question whether the same reflections do not apply to demoniac 
possession and demonology.^ Still others arise and point out that 
Jesus had the same notions as all the pious Jews of his time as to the 
Kingdom of God and the imminent end of the world. The declaration 
of Jesus, " Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall never 
pass away ! " is often cited with triumphant emphasis. What irony ! 
The context shows that these words refer precisely to prophecies which, 
if the text has been correctly preserved, have been negatived by the 
events. We are then forced either to doubt the literal form of these 
discourses or to apply the Saviour's declaration to some other subject. 

Those who say most often, and with most emphasis, " We do not 
reason with Christ," in reality do nothing else, especially in the matter 
of morals. On their own authority they limit the express prohibition 
of Jesus to take oath. Many of his special precepts are comprehensible 

> G. Godet, " Revue de th^ol. de Montauban," July, 1891. 
' Leopold Monod, " Le Probl^me de I'autorit^," 2d ed., 1891. 


only in view of the belief that the world is about to come to an end, or 
applicable only to a social organisation like that of the Galilean peas- 
antry. The majority of Christians feel no hesitation in setting them 
aside or interpreting them as paradoxes which must be adjusted to the 
necessities of modern life. 

We do not say that they are wrong, if their judgment is influenced 
by no interested motive; we simply say that the very necessity of such 
a process proves more clearly than anything else that it is impossible to 
transform the words of Jesus into an infallible and undebatable code. 

Nothing is more false or more dangerous than to reduce his teach- 
ings to a system of doctrines to be believed or of absolute precepts to 
be blindly practised. He himself seems to have taken care to discourage 
those of his disciples who were tempted thus to lower his gospel to the 
rank of a law. He brought to the human spirit not fetters, but new 
powers. He wanted his disciples to be free agents, not passive subjects. 
For this reason he spoke in popular figures and similitudes. He would 
have them find what he taught. The letter, the form, were to him of 
secondary importance; he cared only for the spirit. To kindle this 
spirit in the souls of men, to impart to them the life by which he him- 
self lived, this was all his ambition. He cast abroad his words of life 
with the security and confidence of the sower who fears not that his seed 
will be otherwise lost than by the incredulity of frivolous or wicked 
hearts ; therefore he never thought of writing anything, nor gave any 
promise of special grace to those who afterward might wish to draw up 
the memoirs of his life. To believe in Jesus is an entirely different thing 
in the thought of Jesus himself from sharing all his beliefs or repeating 
the letter of his discourses. He was not claiming the submission or the 
sacrifice of the intelligence when he demanded faith in his person and 
message. Those who maintain this do not perceive that they fail to 
recognise the character and are changing the very nature of the faith 
he requires. He asks for an act of conscience and of heart, an act of 
religious and moral initiative, inaugurating a new interior life; they 


offer an act of intellectual adhesion which may prove to be perfectly 
sterile. They confuse faith and belief. They are positively outside of 
the spirit of Jesus and misapprehend the specific content of his gospel 
of salvation. To believe in Jesus is an act which consecrates the heart, 
the conscience, the will, the whole spirit to the Heavenly Father whom 
Jesus reveals to us ; it is to share his filial piety ; it is to find in him the 
Father, with pardon and eternal life. 

No doubt the Master spoke with authority, and not as the scribes. 
But this means that his authority was of another nature and came from 
another source than that of the scribes, who distinctly claimed to speak 
in the name of infallible texts. The authority of Jesus came, not from 
exterior title, but from the worth of his personality and the intrinsic 
quality of his words. These speak to the conscience with self -enforcing 
power, and, being received by faith, they identify themselves with con- 
science itself and become a part of it. They echo in our hearts like words 
of God, because they witness to themselves as truth, righteousness, and 
love. There is an infinite distance between this authority and the infal- 
libility of any letter whatsoever. It belongs to another order. We 
shall see this better by and by, when we learn that the thought of Jesus 
was precisely to abolish religions of external authority and to found the 
inward religion of the Spirit ; that is, a direct communion with God, es- 
tablished in the renewed conscience. 



The Two Elements of the Answer 

Having demonstrated at length what the Bible is not, it is time to say 
what it is. For this we summon the twofold testimony of history and of 
piety. One shows its true origin and constitution, the other sets forth 
its moral and religious action in the individual soul and in the life of 
humanity. The notion which results from historical research is wholly 
objective; that which grows out of the experiences of piety is subjective. 
From the synthesis of these two notions, so far as such synthesis may 
be possible, we shall form the modern dogmatic notion of the Bible. 


The Historic Notion of the Bible 

From the historic point of view the Bible represents a literary fact, or 
rather, a group of literary facts, which may and should be studied by 
a method analogous to that which in the last century or more has made 
a new thing of the history of nature. The modem historic method is 
simply a form and special application of the method of impartial and 
rigorous observation. When one is no longer blinded by dogmatic pre- 
possessions, and has learned to distinguish between objective facts and 
the subjective impressions of the ego, the actual reality of the facts is 
revealed to him through the rent veil of the abstract entities and 
mythological fictions of the old theology, which each day helps to make 
more tenuous. 

Thus is it, in the first place, with the text of the Bible. The study 



and comparison of manuscripts have sufficed to show that in none of 
them is it preserved in its original purity; that the poverty of early 
methods of transmission effected changes in its essential constitution 
almost as grave as those suffered by other ancient texts, and that there is 
no other method of correcting the biblical texts than that everywhere else 
employed by scientific paleography. This being the case, it is easy to 
see on what chimeras theologians based their discussions and Catholic 
and Protestant synods their legislations in the seventeenth century, con- 
cerning the verbal inspiration usque ad literam of the Scriptures, since 
their original text is irrevocably lost and can only be reconstituted by 
approximation and conjecture. 

By these means we establish still more singular and important literary 
phenomena. In what condition do we actually find the text of the Old 
Testament Scriptures ? Instead of the homogeneity formerly attributed 
to them we find in the historic books a fabric woven of documents yet 
more ancient, whose vari-coloured threads are easily distinguishable, 
making clear that the Pentateuch and the books of Joshua, Judges, 
Samuel, and Kings assumed their present form at a very late date. 
Furthermore, what a medley of disarrangement do we find in the prophe- 
cies of Isaiah, Zechariah, and Jeremiah, to speak only of those whose 
want of connection is visible to the unaided eye ! What is the Book of 
Psalms, if not the Psalter of the Jewish synagogue, made up of hymns 
of very different periods, already gathered into earlier collections.'' 
What shall we say under this head of Proverbs and the entire Solomonic 
literature, offshoots of which are found down to the second century 
before our era.'' 

These phenomena are not confined to the Old Testament. We meet 
analogous conditions in the New, especially in the Grospels, the Acts, 
the Revelation of St. John, and even in the Pauline Epistles. The pro- 
logue of Luke and the literary analysis of the Gospel of Matthew and 
the Book of Acts demonstrate with irrefragable evidence that these are 
works of a second hand, made up of the elements of an earlier literature. 


Certain specific facts still further enlarge the perspective thus newly 
opened of the origin and mode of composition of the biblical books. We 
merely cite the date now given to the Apocalypse of Daniel, and the 
relationship of this book to all succeeding apocalypses, making so plain 
to us the atmosphere in which Jesus lived, the framework of his ideas, the 
Messianic form of his consciousness, and the essentially eschatological 
character of his preaching. Then there is the affinity of the recently 
discovered Assyrian mythology with the early ethnic traditions of Israel, 
furnishing the starting-point of the religious evolution of this people. 
And finally we have a more exact knowledge of the rabbinical theology 
which forms the background of that of Paul, and of the Judeo-Alex- 
andrian theosophy, the method, tendencies, and cardinal ideas which are 
carried into the Epistle to the Hebrews, the Fourth Gospel, and beyond 
without interruption to the writings of Justin Martyr, Clement of 
Alexandria, and Origen, and into the Christology of the great councils. 
We are not here concerned with more or less questionable matters of 
detail; the question is of a positive historic method which has given a 
new setting to the old dogmatics and has accomplished this important 
revolution much more by its manner of setting forth the literary prob- 
lems than by its way of solving them. What historian of the Bible 
to-day does not find himself compelled not only to accept the method, 
but also to co-operate in it.'' 

Not less profoundly has the idea of the Biblical Canon been modi- 
fied. Miracle has disappeared from the history of the canon as com- 
pletely as from that of the text. The Old Testament Canon is formed 
of three successive collections of unequal authority, still recognisable 
in the Hebrew Bible, but confused and intermingled in the transla- 
tions. The classification was made at an unknown date by rabbis still 
more unknown. Was there ever a final, official closure of the collection 
by the synagogue? We cannot know. But one thing is clearly visible, 
the pedagogic intent which guided those who first undertook the task. 

The Canon of the New Testament only began to be fixed in the time 


of Irenaeus. Before that, no doubt, the books of the apostolic men 
were collected and kept with pious care. They were read at meetings 
for worship, or on the great anniversaries. But these collections dif- 
fered in the different provinces, and the differences persisted for cen- 
turies. Nevertheless the Catholic Church, constituting itself around 
Rome as its capital, tended toward the unification of the rule of faith and 
the catalogue of the Christian Scriptures. Uncertainties there still were; 
a distinction which dogmatics has since effaced was established in the 
very canon between the homologoiimena, or books everywhere accepted, 
and the antilogomena, or books questioned or of doubtful origin. 

In disputable cases the Church made use of a twofold criterion. 
Was the book in conformity with the traditionally accepted faith? Was 
it of apostolic origin? Naturally the dogmatic reason took precedence 
of the other. That which was orthodox certainly came from the 
apostles, however uncertain or obscure might be its true origin. Its 
apostolicity was concluded from its truth or its religious utility. Thus 
the Second Epistle of Peter, a manifest pseudepigraph, was positively 
attributed to that author, and the Epistle to the Hebrews finally took 
its place among the Epistles of Paul, although its style, ideas, method, 
and spirit unite to make this hypothesis impossible. As the stamp of 
official warrant was everywhere deemed essential, the canonical authority 
of the Gospel by Mark was in like manner justified by connecting it 
with Peter and that of the Gospel of Luke by connecting it with Paul. 
Thus the authority of the sacred Scriptures and that of the apostolic 
college were finally made coincident. 

It is not difficult to perceive the vicious circle underlying all reason- 
ings of this naturfe. But the Church in pursuing them obeyed the 
instinct of the general Christian consciousness. And for that reason, 
no doubt, the choice at which she finally arrived was relatively most 
happy, and merits, if not the submission of criticism, at least the reli- 
gious respect of all Christendom. 
\ Nothing can prove more perfectly than this history that the Biblical 


Canon is the work of the Church, instead of its foundation ; that each 
Church is mistress of its own canon ; that Luther was not presumptuous 
when in the name of the gospel he left out of his, or at least placed in 
the second class, three or four received books, and that the Reformed 
Church acted only within its right in drawing up in the Confession 
of Faith of La Rochelle its own list of canonical books, the authority 
of which was in its mind founded less upon the testimony of a human 
tradition than upon that of the Holy Spirit. At the same time we can 
see into what an irreconcilable inconsistency every Protestant Church 
falls, when, owning itself fallible, it seeks to corrects its human falli- 
billity by proclaiming as its fundamental dogma the external infallibility 
of the biblical canon which it has itself constituted. 

In the light of history the books in their turn take on a new signifi- 
cation. The historic method applies to them the process and rules of 
interpretation which have everywhere else been accepted. It starts from 
the principle that every literary production belongs to its time and sur- 
roundings, and can be understood only by being restored to them. It 
is not a question of misconceiving or doubting the originality or inspira- 
tion of these writers, but of determining the intellectual and social hori- 
zon, the circle of ideas, the series of different circumstances, which con- 
ditioned their first appearance and consequently explain their special 
character and true bearing. Considered from this point of view the old 
Hebrew literature no longer hangs in the air, a series of miraculously 
given oracles. The individual books become facts woven into the very 
fabric of history. They bring to it added witness, being its religious 
fruits. The general law that a literature must be the expression of 
society, that it must proceed from the soul of a people and from the 
drama of its history, has been found true both for the literature of the 
Hebrews and for that of the first Christian ages. It remains only to 
establish as accurately as possible the relative chronology of the books, 
in order to reconstruct the general course of religious evolution to which 
they testify. 


The biblical criticism of to-cLiy is not only an introduction to the 
Bible, it is a chapter of literary history, naturally taking its place in the 
general history of religious literature, or, more correctly, in the uni- 
versal history of the religion of humanity. 

The conclusion of all these studies is simple and clear; so far as 
history is concerned, the Bible is a collection of historical documents which 
give positive evidence for the special religious evolution of which they are 
the product. 


The Religious Notion of the Bible 

The historical and literary questions implicated in the Bible have been 
and still are so fully and vehemently discussed only because behind them 
lie questions infinitely more grave, involving the future of the moral 
and religious life of humanity. Criticism and exegesis may more or 
less successfully reconstruct the character and sequence of the religious 
phenomena of history. But what is the moral value of these phenomena, 
what the importance of their history for the human conscience, how are 
we to judge of the religion of the Bible? These are new questions which 
infinitely transcend the scope and competence of the historic method. 
They address themselves to all that is deepest and most earnest in man, 
to his religious and moral consciousness, and the testimony of this con- 
sciousness we must now consider. 

This testimony is of an order quite other than scientific. It is of the 
order of holiness. Holiness has its intuitions, its judgments, and experi- 
ences. But there is a danger in formulating them, because in translat- 
ing them into intellectual propositions we incur the risk of altering or 
at least of masking their true nature, of opening the door to the ques- 
tions of intellectualism when, as Pascal says, it is the heart that is their 
judge. I mean that instead of reasoning we have here to live, to experi- 
ence, and to test. 

The conviction that human life is a serious thing, that it is so only by 


the consecration of the entire being to duty, that the history of humanity 
is the history of its moral education, that it has a purpose, and conse- 
quently, laws, is not the result of scientific demonstration, but an act of 
moral energy, which must be performed under penalty of resigning one's 
self to universal vanity and spiritual death. When one is in the state of 
mind which may properly be called moral piety, it is impossible not to 
be struck by the nature and power of that spirit of holiness which created 
the history of Israel, the hfe and work of Christ, and in them reveals 
itself. There, amid the shadows and sorrows of the times and the race, 
is a succession of men of God, each the spiritual father of the other, 
and all together creating in the bosom of humanity the high religion 
of the spirit. Their history is the history of God himself taking pos- 
session of the human soul, becoming the inmate of the human conscious- 
ness to such an extent as in the consciousness of Christ to be identified 
with it- Christ is the culmination of this divine history, because in 
him history finds its perfect work. Whoever, therefore, shall analyse 
the essential and permanent foundation — I do not say of the conscience 
of the Church, but of the modern conscience — such as eighteen centuries 
of Christian civilisation have made it, will discover its distinctive features 
and essential elements to be those of the conscience of Christ himself. 
No, the Christ did not come unavailingly into the world. Every soul 
that attains to a high moral and rehgious life bears his mark. The 
moral world in which we live is his work, and none may rebel against the 
intuitions, laws, aspirations, sufferings, of this new world ; none may 
escape or evade them without the consciousness o( a moral fall. 

This is the profound explanation of the religious and moral action 
of the Bible upon the Christian consciousness. It is this persistently 
creative and stimulating action upon the moral life which gives it author- 
ity. Its authority is wholly spiritual; it depends, not upon the letter, 
but the spirit of the Scriptures, and appeals to the mind and heart. 
It is freely accepted, because it exists only so far as it becomes one with 
the experiences or the present aspirations of piety. It has no more 


need of oflBcial verification, of outward attestation, than the light which 
enlightens the eye, or the duty which commands the conscience, or the 
beauty which ravishes the imagination. The efficacy of the divine word 
is at once the inward sign, the measure, and the foundation of its 

It is neither permitted nor possible to identify the Bible with the 
\J revelation of God in the life of humanity, for this revelation, in its pro- 
gressive development in history, is universal and permanent; it can- 
not be shut up in any document or any special institution. But since 
the revelation to Israel was more evident and of a higher character than 
any other, in the preaching of the prophets, of Christ and of his apostles, 
the Bible is by no means to be separated from it ; it makes a part of it, 
since the preaching itself constituted it. We may therefore say that 
the Bible continues and perpetually maintains the revelation of God in 
the souls of men, keeping it fresh and strong by its primitive simplicity. 

Thus the Bible, drawing its authority from its own efficacy, has in 
itself the means of making itself immediately recognised by the soul 
that is athirst for righteousness and truth. At the secret contact of the 
conscience with holiness a moral evidence is called into being which is 
essentially the witness of the Divine Spirit with the human spirit. The 
V Reformers made the mistake of applying the inward witness of the Holy 
Spirit to a mass of literary and historical questions with which it has 
nothing to do, and for this reason their dogmatic has not escaped the 
reproach of fanaticism and illuminism ; but restricted to the sanctifying 
action of the Bible, I mean of its essential spirit, no witness can be more 
trustworthy. It is as legitimate as the influence of the moral imperative 
upon the honest conscience, and no more mystical than that. 

Christians may deceive themselves, and they often do deceive them- 
selves, when they reason from their inward experiences to the causes that 
produced them, or the doctrinal conclusions that flow from them. But 
these experiences remain none the less moral facts, bearing eloquent wit- 
ness to the power of the Bible. What other book like this can awaken 


dumb or sleeping consciences, reveal the secret needs of the soul, sharpen 
the thorn of sin and press its cruel point upon us, tear away our 
delusions, humiliate our pride, and disturb our false serenity? What 
sudden lightnings it shoots into the abysses of our hearts! What 
searchings of conscience are like those which we make by this light ? And 
when we have gained a right apprehension of our shortcomings and 
spiritual poverty, when the need c f pardon, the hunger for righteous- 
ness, and the thirst for life torture the soul to desperation, what other 
voice than that of the Son of man has power to allay our pain, convince 
us of the love of the Father, the love that passeth knowledge, in which all 
shame and remorse are swallowed up, and the flame of a holy life is 
kindled in the soul? The word which pierced us like a sharp sword 
now she'ds itself like balm over all our wounds, like consolation over all 
our sorrows. It becomes a source of inward joy, a strength for life, 
and a hope which shines beyond death itself. These experiences, more- 
over, are facts. This light shining into the darkness of the inner life 
is a fact; this repentance and confusion, this spiritual new birth, these 
aspirations toward goodness and toward God, this shame of hidden sin, 
this thirst for eternal life, are facts. The power which produces such 
effects is also a fact. The word which draws us so irresistibly to God 
and so invincibly attaches us to him can come from none but him. And 
it does not depend upon any particular dogma. Some who have passed 
through these moral experiences have found no difficulty in following 
to the end the results and consequences of historic criticism, and abandon- 
ing the supernatural notion of the Bible, yet have none the less preserved 
for the Bible an indestructible sentiment of tender respect and religious 

Such is the inspiration which piety feels and finds in Holy Scripture. 
It has nothing in common with the infallibility of the letter. It is a 
power of life which makes itself recognised as such, because it gives life. 
It requires and implies neither perfection of form nor the magic of 
miracle nor any official investiture of its instruments. Piety has not 


the slightest concern for the things that preoccupy the theologians who 
are building it up on human authority. It is not scandalised by the 
halting language of prophet or apostle, nor by the legendary character 
of some narratives, nor by the vices of this or that method of reasoning. 
On the contrary, in its eyes the excellency of the treasure shines forth 
all the more brightly as its casket is the more uncomely ; it enjoys the 
divine liquor without care for the clay which holds it. Has it not in 
itself the touchstone which makes known the value of the treasure, and 
does not the life-giving fragrance of the liquor reveal its origin? 

This experience of the Christian is expanded and confirmed in the 
age-long experience of the Church. All Christian communions have 
adhered to the Bible in order to remain in contact with the original 
source of their religious life. If some of them, like the Roman Catholic 
and Orthodox [Greek] Churches, have without denying it put their 
traditions above its authority, if they have thus relegated it to the 
shadow, they have not escaped an equal detriment to liberty of con- 
science and to that sound integrity which is the life of piety. Wherever 
the Bible is held in honour it remains the safeguard of Christian liberty, 
an ever-living agent of reformation, a power for progress and for life. 

History sees in the Bible a collection of historic documents, and this 
is no crime on its part. Individual and collective piety reads in these 
documents a divine history, it perceives in them a " Word of God " ; 
and none can dispute the validity of this experience without calling in 
question the value of the moral life itself, whether in its deepest roots 
or its purest and most lofty manifestations. 


An Attempt at Synthesis 

From the synthesis of the historic notion and the religious notion we 
should be able to draw the dogmatic definition of the authority of Scrip- 
ture. The reconciliation of the two, however, is neither spontaneous nor 


immediate. Springing from two very different mental operations, re- 
sponding to needs of different nature, they stand over against one another 
in seeming mutual contradiction, as is often the case when scientific 
theses first come in contact with moral theses. The devout heart over- 
leaps the normal and uniform play of second causes, divines and every- 
where predicates the presence of God, for the invincible reason that 
in itself it has immediate consciousness of him. But scientific observa- 
tion, excluding from its domain all search after the first cause, recognises 
nowhere any special and distinct act in the historic nexus of events. 
Thus the two orders, instead of tending to harmony, appear to diverge 
more and more widely. Yet shall science forbid faith to adore? 

To reconcile the two is the task of modern Christian thought. It 
will not be accomplished in a day nor by any single man. But far from 
reconciliation being impossible or chimerical, the question, in so far as 
Scripture is concerned, has in these last days made a long step toward 
solution. The solution will appear more clearly when the last remnants 
of the old dogma of verbal inspiration and supernatural canon shall 
have been cleared away from the dogmatic field. This ancient dogma 
from which the infallibility of the Bible was deduced can in no case be 
rehabilitated, for it implies a double miracle, which criticism has shown 
to be a double historic fiction. 

This being the case, it is important that both faith and criticism 
should come to a more distinct consciousness of their rights and their 
limits. Conflicts break out between them only because each inconsid- 
erately trespasses upon the territory of the other. Both the religious 
and the scientific spirit need educating. The war between them is abat- 
ing in proportion as this education makes progress. Already their har- 
mony upon many points is becoming evident. 

Upon the question of the biblical canon the testimony of both is 
identical. The data of history and of piety are reciprocally coincident 
and confirmatory. Criticism demonstrates that at least in the begin- 
ning the catalogue of the sacred books had no fixed limits. Piety is 


continually ascertaining and treasuring up that which for it is the 
" Word of God " outside of as well as within the present limits of the 
sacred canon. It finds more edification in the book of Maccabees than 
in the story of Esther or of Samson. The inspiration of the Epistle 
of Polycarp appears to it more truly apostolic than that of the Second 
Epistle of Peter. 

Historical criticism shows the variety of the books of the Bible; it 
ascertains those differences of date and authorship, of ideas and of inten- 
tions, of matter and of fonn, which make them to differ; it makes clear 
that they vary widely as to religious and moral development. But the 
piety of the unlearned, guided solely by its instincts, ascertains the same 
facts. The new theology is greatly reproached for making these dis- 
tinctions in the traditional Bible, but every Christian without hesitation 
or scruple does the same thing as a matter of practice. He always turns 
to those parts of Scripture which build up his faith and comfort his 
sorrow, and passes by those which are only dry and sterile ground. Not 
more for practical piety than for enlightened thought is the Bible of 
the Churches identical with the " Word of God." 

It is another error to say that piety needs an outward attestation, 
a miracle, in order to recognise and accept this divine word. The 
gospel appears to it no less divine and salutary after the historic study 
of the traditions about the birth of Christ has proved to It that no posi- 
tive conclusion can be reached as to the way in which Christ came into the 
world. John the Baptist did no miracle. Was he the less a prophet.? 
Jesus proclaimed him as the greatest of all prophets. We know nothing 
of Amos or Isaiah except their preaching. When they move our con- 
sciences, do we for this reason less surely discover in them the presence 
of the Holy Spirit.? 

From the historic and literary point of view the Bible presents itself 
as nothing else than what in other cases we call a great classic literature. 
The Old Testament is the classic literature of Judaism, the New Testa- 
ment is the classic literature of Christianity. Just as a literature of 


this class is the finished expression of a nation's genius, so the Bible is 
the cogent expression of two spirits, of Israel and of nascent Chris- 
tianity. Do we need any other reason to explain its charm and its irre- 
sistible influence? Piety asks for nothing more than the substantial 
nutriment it finds here. It is true that a classic literature is only rela- 
tively perfect, and that, being a human creation, it shares the condition 
and destiny of human things. Inevitably it ages, and that increasingly, 
and in the process it becomes in many respects unadapted to the con- 
science of the generations which come long after it. A discord results ; 
it does not exclude veneration, but it does prevent servitude. Time and 
surroundings must be taken into account. Adaptation becomes neces- 
sary. Thus critical reflection teaches us; thus piety instinctively 
does. No Christian, however conservative he may imagine himself to 
be, reads the Bible to-day without taking some things and leaving some; 
without subjecting the ancient text to some sort of translation, more 
or less thorough, without which he would soon find that it had ceased to 
help him. 

The letter of the Bible, then, is no longer the infallible rule of reli- 
gious thought, the oracle of absolute and eternal truth. Yet none the 
less does the Bible continue to discharge a double and essential function 
in the life of churches, families, and individuals. It is no longer a code, 
but it remains a testimony ; it is no longer a law, but it is a means of 
grace. It does not prescribe the scientific formulas of faith, but it does 
remain the historic fountain of Christian knowledge. 

1. The Function of the Bible as a historic document. The religion 
of the gospel had its prologue and preparation in the moral and religious 
life of Israel, without which the gospel could not have been understood. 
Interrogated with discernment by criticism and exegesis, the Old Testa- 
ment gives evidence of this historic preparation, makes it possible to 
grasp its true nature and progress, and serves as the indispensable intro- 
duction to the New. The form of the religious experience wrought in 


the souls of the Hebrew prophets determined that of the rehgious experi- 
ence which was wrought out and perfected in the souls of Christ and his 
first disciples. 

The New Testament is the authentic and sincere expression of Chris- 
tianity in the freshness of its earliest days. It gives us a clear idea 
of the essence of the gospel, enables us to discern it with accuracy, and 
thus to apprehend it in its pristine truth. It is the first link, so to speak, 
in the Christian tradition ; but because it is the first, this link dominates 
all that follow. No single Church could give up the Bible thus under- 
stood, without cutting itself off from communion with the original source 
of its life. Thus the witness becomes a judge, for it makes possible a 
judgment of the value of all subsequent forms of the tradition. The 
historic document which attests the nature of the essence of Christianity 
at its beginning is still the surest defence against Catholic traditionalism. 
In vain, for example, does the Church of Rome insist that the worship 
of the Virgin and the Saints, auricular confession, the sacrifice of the 
Mass, the supremacy of Peter, are matters of faith, essential to the 
Christian religion and essential to salvation. So long as they were un- 
known or disputed in this first age, Catholic dogmatism hangs baseless 
in the air, unless it should be maintained that the apostles and Christ 
himself did not preach the whole Gospel of Salvation ; and it may be con- 
sidered as remaining outside of the Christian religion itself. 

This historic document none the less guards us against the illusions 
and dreams of private inspiration. Apart from history, inspiration is 
lost in the limitless fields of fancy. It has neither compass nor rudder. 
In vain the mystagogues and illuminati appeal to the inward witness of 
the Spirit. The Christian spirit can be nothing other than the Spirit 
of Christ. Psychologically the witness of the Spirit is nothing else than 
the assurance of the gospel, believed and experienced in the heart. But 
the gospel came to us by historical tradition. We did not invent it; it 
was preached, that is, given, to us. Assuredly Christian inspiration 
never ceases to draw from it an indefinite progression of action and of 


thought; but without ever, breaking the historic continuity which joins 
it to its origin. 

2. Function of the Bible as a means of grace. It not only makes 
us know historically the religious experience wrought out in the soul 
of Christ and of his immediate disciples, but it begets and continues a 
line of disciples, a tradition of life, by repeating the same experience in 
each successor. It not only reveals life, it propagates it. It is only a 
preaching, and a human preaching of the gospel, but it dates from an 
epoch of creative inspiration, artless popular faith, and burning fer- 
vour. It is altogether the most simple and the most sublime preaching, 
most meagre in form, most efficacious in power. The Holy Spirit 
breathes through and animates its least important pages. The " Word 
of God " — I mean that word which arouses the conscience and gives it 
peace, which pardons and sanctifies, reproves and consoles — speaks 
through it with an accent which the devout heart hears nowhere else. 
Piety ever returns to it and never wearies of it. Protestantism is there- 
fore fully justified, after giving up the vain attempt to make an infal- 
lible oracle of the Bible, in guarding for it the place of honour which it 
took in the sixteenth century and from which no one can ever depose it. 
As said the man of all men perhaps most vigorously opposed to the 
inspiration and authority of the letter, Edmond Scherer, " The Bible will 
ever be the book of power, the marvellous book, the book above all others. 
It will ever be the hght of the mind and the bread of the soul. Neither 
the superstitions of some nor the irreligious negations of others have 
been able to do it harm. If there is anything certain in the world, it is 
that the destinies of the Bible are linked with the destinies of holiness 
on earth." ^ 

*■ £. Scherer, " Ce que c'est que la Bible," Rev. de Thiol., Strasburg, vol. ix. p. 377. 




It needed only to narrate the long and tempestuous elaboration of the 
Catholic and the Protestant dogmas of authority to show them both 
crumbhng away under the triple protest of history, the reason, and the 
Christian consciousness. The first rests on a political, the second on a 
literary fiction. Both are the fruit of an exaggerated and misunder- 
stood craving for authority, and a formal and abstract logic, deducing 
from an a priori postulate, not that which is, but that which ought to 
be. A diplomatic and utilitarian argument is at the basis of all these 
systems of authority. The tribunal is declared infallible, not because 
it actually is such, but because there is need that it should be such. Men 
do not observe what the Church is in its actual concrete history ; they do 
not see it compounded of good and evil, now fervent and heroic, now 
ambitious and yielding to the grossest superstitions ; always in its faith, 
its catechisms, and its worship mingling the gospel of Christ with the 
changing conceptions of the century through which it is passing. They 
place it outside of the unescapable conditions of every human institu- 
tion and make it a pure abstraction, a metaphysical entity which is first 
deified and then used as a formidable instrument of religious tyranny. 
So with the Bible. Men do not study the real Bible, they do not con- 
sider the extremely diverse phenomena which it presents, the dead or 
superannuated ideas and customs, the concrete diversity of the books 
and the inspirations which meet in it; they identify it immediately with 
the very revelation of God. It is no longer a human book, it is an ab- 
stract entity of which they make an idol, before which they prostrate 
themselves and seek to prostrate reason and conscience, as if they would 
convince themselves of the reality of its authority by the very excess of 
the superstition with which they surround it, and especially by the excess 
of energy with which they maintain its authority. 

Yet between Catholicism and Protestantism there is this difference, 


that one has succeeded where the other has failed. The Catholic system 
of authority has at last established and completed itself by the Vatican 
decree. The Protestant system of authority has forever broken down. 
But we must not judge of these events by appearances. When we go to 
the bottom of things the relations are reversed; Catholicism is dying 
of its victory, while Protestantism is finding in its apparent defeat a 
means of salvation and a renewal of its youth. 

It was to maintain peace and unity in Christendom that the Roman 
Church laid emphasis upon the infallibility of its tradition and the divine 
origin of the power of its bishops. Never was purpose more ill at- 
tained nor hope more greatly disappointed. The peace of the Church, 
maintained by excommunications meekly sanctioned by the power of the 
State, was only a series of bloody executions and irremediable ruptures. 
Is there in the religious annals of humanity a darker page than the 
history of the persecutions, massacres, and scaffolds which follow in un- 
interrupted succession from the destruction of the Donatists in Africa 
to the proscription of the Huguenots in France? What a concert of 
groaning voices, of martyr plaints and rebellious protests, went up 
during this period of twelve centuries from Constantine to Louis XIV, 
calling earth and heaven to witness the cruel effects of the religious 
tyranny of Rome ! Was ever altar more copiously watered with innocent 
blood than the altar of this Christian Moloch whose name was Catholic 
Unity.'' And what was the result of this policy of authority.'' Was 
unity at least saved? 

In the early centuries of the Middle Ages Christendom was split into 
two nearly equal parts, and since then all the efforts of the most per- 
severing and subtile diplomacy have been powerless to bring together 
the Greek and Latin Churches. The same authoritative and intransigent 
policy, the same dogma of the infallibility of the Church, brought about 
a new scission. The Western Church was in its time cut in two. Half 
of Europe drew away from Rome and became Protestant. From that 
time each triumph of the Papal authority has caused damage to the 


Catholic Church, a loss of its internal liberties, a diminution of vitality 
and spiritual strength. In the seventeenth century it was the exter- 
mination of Jansenism ; at the beginning of the nineteenth the end of 
Gallicanism. Neither St. Bernard nor Gerson, nor yet Bossuet, would 
be tolerated in the Church to-day without an act of submission. The 
council of the Vatican, which finally concentrated the infallible tradition 
and absolute authority in the person of the Pope, made a still wider 
moral hiatus in the Church. After having broken with half Christen- 
dom, the Catholicism of the Syllabus succeeded — at least in those coun- 
tries which are nominally its own — in breaking with modem culture, with 
the principles of public law accepted by all civilised nations, with the 
scientific method and the most legitimate aspirations of the conscience. 
No doubt the Catholic principle has triumphed within the Church, but 
without it has destroyed itself by its own excesses, and no longer appears 
to minds having a degree of liberal culture as anything but a spectre 
of the past. The dogma of the infallibility of the Pope was still-born, 
for no one thinks of considering it from the point of view of religious 
history and philosophy. The majority even of those who accept it omit 
it by preterition ; for the others it is only a sort of law of politics or 
social decorum, which it would show as much bad taste to contradict 
as intellectual simplicity to take seriously. 

In Protestantism the attempt to build up a system of authority could 
not succeed because it was vitiated by a radical inconsistency. Therefore 
the work of those who conducted it resembles the sand heaps which chil- 
dren make when they think to carry the top higher by piling on it the 
sand which they pull out from below. The critical spirit in religion 
was twin-bom with the Reformation. If the gospel is the basis of Prot- 
estantism, free inquiry is its necessary form. It cannot give up either 
without committing suicide. 

With Luther and Calvin the Christian conscience was definitively 
recognised as autonomous. It can never again retrace its steps nor again 
take on the yoke. The idea of setting up in Protestantism an external 


infallible authority is only a survival of the principle which was defeated 
in the sixteenth century. We should not be surprised at these relapses 
nor anticipate their long duration. In the time and countries where 
reaction has seemed to triumph it has given only a wretched copy of a 
stunted and decapitated Catholicism. In other places the discord be- 
tween the Catholic and Protestant principles has become manifest. To 
it is due the ills and agitations of modern Protestant Churches. By the 
logic of ideas and the force of things they are taking part in the final 
struggle, in which no choice remains but either to turn back again to 
the Roman Catholicism whence they once came out, or to rise joyfully 
and vigorously from the religion of the letter to the religion of the 
Spirit. A near future will show which sentence they pronounce upon 





Preliminary Dialogue 

Adelphi is a friend of my childhood with whom I have the habit of 
discussing whatever I write. He is not fond of novelties, and he is a 
pretty good logician ; two excellent endowments for speedily discovering 
the difficulties of a new opinion and the vice of specious reasoning. Con- 
cerned before all else with the interests of the religious hfe, he holds 
by tradition and defends all in it that is most respectable and legitimate. 
For me to come to a clear understanding with him on the subject is 
equivalent to settling my account with religion itself. 

I therefore sent to him the first two parts of tliis work as soon as 
they were finished, and awaited a visit from him. A week later he entered 
my study, and, handing me my manuscript, entered without preamble 
upon the subject. 


Authority and Religion 

Adelphi. — ^Your twofold historical exposition has greatly disturbed 
my mind. It would be possible to take you up in some matters of detail, 
to argue such and such of your statements, but not to shake the whole. 
For my part, while I feel incompetent to refute you, I still rebel against 
your conclusion. It seems to me to reach farther than you suspect. 
When you sap the basis of authority you destroy the very foundations 

of religion. 



/. — Are you not confounding authority with reHgion? 

Adelphi. — Not at all; but I consider them inseparable. However, 
here are the three objections, or rather the three difficulties, which I 
desire to submit to you: 

1. The idea of religion necessarily implies that of authority. 

2. The Christian religion is essentially a history, or, if you prefer, a 
manifestation of God in history. But all history, to be believed, sup- 
poses the attestation of witnesses. 

3. The Christian religion, as you yourself state, has hitherto been 
a religion of authority; it has always created its own authority within 
itself. Is not this a proof or a presumption that it cannot do without 

/. — My dear Adelphi, in all this I recognise your methodical mind. 
I thank you for thus laying down the programme and direction of our 
discussion, it will be by so much the shorter and clearer. You are right 
in thinking that I have not written this long history of the Catholic and 
Protestant dogmas of authority without having had occasion to reflect 
upon the three difficulties which you set before me. No doubt the first 
is the gravest in your eyes, since you connect with it the very destiny of 
reHgion upon earth. Shall we begin with it? How, then, do you 
understand that authority and religion are inseparable things and 
notions ? 

Adelphi. — Their connection is visible enough. Is religion anything 
else than the recognition and acceptance of the authority of God ? What 
is it to adore, if not to prostrate ourselves humbly and unquestioningly 
before his Majesty? What is it to pray, if not to proclaim the sov- 
ereignty of his will ? What is it to believe, to confide one's self to him, if 
not to abandon one's self entirely to his providence and obey his decisions, 
even when we find them incomprehensible? The people then are right 
when they hold that a religion without authority is not a religion. 

/. — The people and you are a thousand times right. Far from dis- 
puting your observations on this point I should be inclined to go even 


farther. It is the essence of religion to recognise and accept the 
authority of God; to recognise it and rebel against it would be the 
essence of impiety. But have you observed that when you express your- 
self thus you limit the notion of authority ? It is no longer any abstract 
authority you please; it is the authority of God. And in this connec- 
tion, please recall to mind that in those parts of my book which you 
have read there is not one word of hostility to the absolute authority of 
God. The question has been only of the authority of the Church, or the 
Pope, and of the authority of a book, the Bible. My intention has even 
been to make the divine authority more complete in the souls of Chris- 
tians, by setting aside and putting in their true place the human authori- 
ties which men have attempted to put in the place of his authority, and 
which veil or misrepresent him under the pretext of making him more 
actual and concrete to us. 

Adelphi. — I do not misunderstand your intention, and I do you full 
justice for it. I simply ask if the enterprise to which it has impelled 
you will not lead to a contrary result? In any case, let me continue. 
We agree as to the starting point of our discussion. We both recognise 
and accept the sovereign and indisputable authority of God. Let us now 
leave the abstract and place ourselves in the reality of experimental and 
vital religion. The authority of God manifesto itself to the devout con- 
science as a revelation, a word of God, and this word holds in subjection 
the spirit of the man who hears and understands it ; it is the truth which 
holds sway over the reason, the commandment which rules the will, the 
inspiration which exalts and enraptures the whole soul. 

/. — Truly, I could not express it better, and it gives me infinite 
pleasure to hear you. Is not that what the old theologians used to call 
the inward witness of the Holy Spirit, and upon which they rested the 
specific assurance of the Christian faith.'* 

Adelphi. — Unquestionably. But I have not finished. This word of 
God has objectified itself in history. It has gone out into all the world 
by the mouth of those whom the Bible calls " men of God." Under 


various unlike forms it has been everywhere present and audible, but in 
a liigher manner, more clearly and purely, in Israel and in the Christian 
Church than elsewhere. Do you not admit this declaration of the 
Epistle to the Hebrews, " Having spoken to the fathers at diverse times 
and in diverse manners, God has spoken to us in these last days by a 
Son "? Is not the Bible from thenceforth more particularly a " Word 
of God," and as such invested with a divine authority? 

/. — In these vague and general terms we are in accord. But the 
problem arises as soon as we begin to define, on one side the limits of the 
Bible, or Sacred Canon, and on the other the kind and degree of the 
authority of each one of the books comprised in this collection. You 
have just spoken of the divine authority of the Bible; you do not under- 
stand this absolutely, as if God spoke to you personally and without 
intermediary. The men who served him as organs were fallible, they 
had a specific mental constitution ; they shared the ignorances or the 
delusions of their contemporaries. There is, then, in their writings, a 
certain number of general ideas, of natural and historical data which, 
belonging to the general or profane order, cannot be considered as divine 
revelations. Whence it follows inevitably that, to discern the " witness 
of God " in the Bible we must bring to it examination and criticism. 
Answer me frankly. Do you exercise no criticism upon any book or any 
text of Scripture.'' Do you know a theologian of our day who abstains 
from it, or even a simple Christian whose piety, nourishing itself upon 
the Bible, makes no choice or instinctive selection? 

Adelphi. — I must confess that we all do this. 

/. — Then you no longer admit the infallibility of the Bible. Why 
are you then scandalised when I perceive and describe the inevitable and 
unconditional death of this old dogma? Where we have to do with an 
oracle claiming infallibility, a single verified error is enough to oblige 
us in conscience to examine all the rest of its utterances. It is no longer 
the book which supports the truth of its teaching; it is the elevation, 
the power, the general truth of the teaching recognised by the conscience, 


which supports the moral and rehgious authority of the book. But 
this authority, still maintained like that of an eminent master or a mas- 
terpiece of art, has no longer anything in common with the dogmatic 
notion of authority: Auctoritas valet sine ratione. That has forever 
vanished. The outward authority of the letter has given place to the 
inward and purely moral authority of the Spirit. 

Adelphi. — Permit me to defend my various positions in their order. 
Is not the word of Christ that authority, at once historic and divine, 
which you discover nowhere.'* 

/. — Do you not foresee my reply to your question? It is with the 
word of Christ precisely as with the word of God himself. Neither of 
them reaches us without intermediary. We know the words of Christ 
through Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, who, in their turn, drew them 
either from earlier collections already variously translated into Greek, 
or from an oral tradition nearly half a century old. Short of proclaim- 
ing a priori the infallibility of this human literary transmission, how 
can we affirm the absolute authenticity of the letter of these words, or 
of the sense in which this letter was taken by the early Christians? Are 
you not struck with the fact that Jesus felt no concern to fix for the 
future the form of his discourses? It is as if he had feared in advance 
that someone might make a code of them like that of the Mosaic law. 
Besides, were the case otherwise, all Christians believe that Jesus was 
truly man, that is to say, a concrete man, a man of his race, times, and 
surroundings. I have already pointed out that in cosmogony, litera- 
ture, physics, physiology, he inherited and frankly made use of the 
notions usual and current among the Pharisees, his contemporaries. Will 
you maintain that these notions are by that fact clothed with divine 
authority, and that it is not permitted to discuss them, or hold other 
views on these subjects? Not only were all the words of Jesus suggested 
by circumstances, and appropriate to the state of mind of his hearers, 
but they were also wrapped up, like luscious fruits, in a dry and withered 
husk which must be pierced if we would reach the nutritious, invigorat- 


ing marrow. Far from avoiding criticism and exegesis, that is, intelli- 
gent attention and profound study, his words call for it more imperi- 
ously than all the rest. God has willed that we should search for the 
thought of Christ, as for his own, in that rendering of it which men 
have left for us, upon our personal responsibility, that is to say, in full 
liberty and with all the energy of our faculties. 

Adelphi. — But at least, have you no pity for those humble, troubled 
minds who fear that the obligation to pick and choose in Scripture will 
rob them of their assurance or disturb the peace of their faith? Will 
you not leave them a mvnvmum of ideas or facts which shall be authori- 
tative for them? 

/. — The lot of these humble believers concerns me to such a degree 
that I had no rest until I could discover for them in place of an outward 
infallible authority, which nowhere exists, a ground of assurance ac- 
cessible to all. There is none other but the witness of the Holy Spirit, 
as Calvin put in so strong a light, and which they have mistakenly aban- 
doned, to take refuge in certain, as they believe, immutable results of 
criticism. As to that minimum of belief of which you speak, do you not 
feel how humiliating and at the same time perilous such a poor solution 
must be? What Christian could wish for more or less than a full and 
true Christian belief? The conception of a minimum of belief is the 
result of the conflict between orthodoxy and rationalism, and the irreme- 
diable defeat of the former. Unable longer to maintain complete ortho- 
doxy, some have contented themselves with a diminished and mitigated 
orthodoxy, which is of all things in the world the least satisfying to 
reason and piety, the most indefinite and inconsequent. They make the 
best of a bad business, they yield a great part of the field to criticism, 
and forbid it to touch the rest. But who determines and delimits this 
minimum? An infallible authority? By no means. The theologians 
make the selection upon their personal authority. They offer and insist 
upon the result of their own subjective criticism, with one breath avow- 
ing that they are fallible men, and with another assuming to formulate, 



in the name of God himself, the infallible rule of Christian belief. Can 
we imagine anything more inconsistent ? And is it not time to overcome 
this old dualism and build up a theology at once more believing and more 
scientific? ^ 

Adelphi. — I have no reply to make; I suffer much, both in my reason 
and my faith, from the situation which you describe and which I find 
untenable. You do not take into account the drift of criticism. When 
one enters upon it he must go on to the end. My criticism, unless I 
make myself a pope, has no right to determine yours, or to condemn it 
as sacrilege. And further, I see that those who believe themselves to be 
and claim to be the most conscientious continually make concessions, 
to-day as to dogma, to-morrow as to the history of the Old Testament 
and the New. What they call the deposit of the traditional faith grows 
smaller every day, melting like the winter's snow in the spring sunshine. 
But how shall we get out of this no thoroughfare in which Protestant 
Christians are shut up? You open for them only the door of an un- 
limited subjectivity. Why should you be surprised that some of them 
look longingly toward Catholicism, and others ask for a more solid 
foundation for their faith? 

/. — At last the great word is out, the scarecrow with which men 
think to reply to everything and ward off all dangers. We must avoid 
subjectivism, and for that reason we will not have a subjective criterion. 
But can there be any other? Consider calmly for a moment. What 
criterion do those employ who inveigh against the new theology? Do 
they think with another's brain, or reason with another's reason? By 
virtue of what principle do they repel the claim of the Catholic Church 
to infallibility ? Why do they prefer the authorit' / the Bible to that 
of the Koran? Does not their judgment upon t} external authorities 
leave them profoundly peaceful? And yet is it anything other than a 

* It is needless to explain that we are speaking here of religious authority for the 
individual faith. The religious Society, the Church, has need of a rule. But that is 
an entirely different matter, which will And its place elsewhere. 


subjective judgment? Is it not inconsistent to permit me to judge by 
my conscience and reason of the value of an authority and then forbid 
me to examine its decisions one by one? 

Let us go farther. What is faith — I mean personal and living faith 
— if not the individual appropriation of the truth? How, then, shall 
faith be other than subjective? And can Christian assurance be found 
outside of the jurisdiction of one's consciousness? You fear that this 
foundation is not sound? But of what nature is the foundation of 
morality? Do you admit that there is anything sounder than the sense 
of duty? Can an exterior authority in morals ever attain to that pro- 
found and sweet security enjoyed by a conscience that clearly sees its 
duty and performs it? 
, If morality does not suffer from the subjective character of its prin- 

■^ ciple, why should religion, especially the Christian religion, which in 
the last analysis is identified with the highest morality, and forms with 
it an ideal unity? 

The door which I seek to open to souls in pain is the door of the reli- 
gion of the Spirit and of liberty. We were speaking in the beginning 
of the authority of God. Compare with it that of any human institu- 
tion, whether priestly hierarchy or sacred books. The first is within, 
in the conscience and the reason, precisely because it is spiritual and 
moral; it meets only one obstacle — sin. It carries with it the light of 
evidence, the certitude of truth, the peace of a finished reconciliation. 
All our faculties find in it their full expansion, because it fortifies them 
inwardly with aX new energy, stimulates them, and manifests itself only 
in their exercise and legitimate satisfaction. On the contrary, the 
authority of a priest or a book, as compared with that of God, remains 
of necessity external, like a human law, and inevitably becomes a yoke 
which either weighs down the human being or urges him to revolt. What 
share in what we call the incredulity of our fellow citizens shall we not 
attribute to the religious authority which they accept in their childhood, 
and execrate or contemn on arriving at years of reason ? Do you under- 


stand now that when I attack these old systems I do It in the spirit of 
the reformers, who shook off all human authority that they might the 
more firmly and absolutely estabhsh the authority of God in the con- 
sciences of men? 

To this inward religion of the Spirit God seeks to lead his Church. 
He stirs her up, harasses her, instructs her by the scientific development 
of our time; he shows her the ancient shelters in which for a time she 
took refuge falling into ruins, and thus constrains her to enter upon 
the path that leads to wider horizons. What else are the plaints and 
threats of reaction lifted up by timid believers but reproaches addressed 
to God himself? 

Can we prescribe to God by what methods he ought to speak to us 
or on what conditions we will recognise and heed his word? All this is 
unreasonable. The divine work is mysterious, but it is good and perfect. 
It is we who are shortsighted, our requirements that are puerile, our 
rebellions that are meaningless. Why should we continue to insist upon 
an external infallible authority ? There is none. In our religious indo- 
lence we would have abdicated and taken refuge in it ; and God will not 
have his children abdicate; he wants no inert spirits in his kingdom. 
That is why he tells us by the lips of Jesus : " He that seeketh findeth," 
having made the search for spiritual benefits the very condition of their 

I had become animated as I drew this conclusion from our conversa- 
tion. Adelphi was thoughtfully silent. For a moment the discussion 
was suspended, but it was soon resumed. 


Historic Testimony and Criticism 

Adelphi. — Hitherto we have confined ourselves to considerations too 
exclusively formal. If dogmatic authority implies infallibility, if it 


can escape critical examination only at this price, I admit that you have 
gained your point. Infallibility exists only in God, and we do not be- 
lieve that he has delegated it to anyone. It exists nowhere in this world. 
But because such infallibility has no existence, does it follow that author- 
ity haa not an important part in religion and that religious beliefs in 
particular do not for the most part rest upon it.f* 

/. — Take care, you have just made an important concession. Yo«»are 
giving up your arms. If I understand you, you are hoping to maintain 
the method of authority, and authority itself, by sacrificing infallibility. 
But what is an authority that is not infallible .'' I will not say that it is 
nothing, but I will say that it is limited and relative. In such a case, 
I have nothing to say against it. Moses, Isaiah, Paul, John, Peter, are 
to me and will continue to be, in the religious order, men of God clothed 
with a very great moral authority; I put myself to school to them, I 
profit by their lessons, they are incomparable models and precious 
teachers ; but, after all, I am still free to choose between their ideas, to 
criticise their reasonings, to reject such of their teachings as are to me 
unassimilable, and to retain those which my present light shows me to 
be just and true. Please observe that in the philosophic realm Plato, 
Aristotle, Descartes, Kant, are authorities of this order. But all this 
has nothing in common with the dogmatic authority which we are dis- 
cussing. Dogmatic authority reigned when the famous Magister dixit 
was enough by itself alone to establish and defend the truth. An 
authority which one has the right to discuss, to defend, or blame, is not 
an authority. 

Adelphi. — I understand it otherwise. We are not talking about a 
fallible authority, but about infallibility restricted to certain objects, in 
a certain domain, absolute as to the degree of certitude, limited as to 
the extent of its jurisdiction. Why, for example, should not men of 
God, including the Christ, have absolute competence to reveal to us the 
thoughts and will of God concerning us? This competence would be 
limited to religious things and not extended over profane things. This 


is what we wish to say when we profess the sovereignty of the Scriptures 
in matters of religion. 

/. — I fear this new distinction will not help you much. Have you 
reflected how fleeting and intangible is the assumed line of demarcation 
that you thus trace between religious and profane things ; between those, 
for example, in which I ought to submit without discussion and those 
where my criticism may freely exercise itself.'' Who will trace this line 
with infallible authority? And if you fall back upon the individual 
sense, do you not see that everyone will put outside of the strictly reli- 
gious domain all that his Christian conscience cannot tolerate ? Had the 
orders of extermination given by God himself to Joshua and the con- 
querors of Palestine a religious character, or not? Are not the pre- 
scriptions of the Mosaic law all religious, and yet are we not obliged to 
make a choice among them ? 

I find not the slightest reason to believe that Jesus did not share the 
opinions of his contemporaries as to the Mosaic authorship of the Penta- 
teuch and as to the creation of the world and the origin of the human 
race, as narrated in Genesis. Do these opinions affect religion, or do 
they not? What shall we say of the person of Satan and of demoniac 
possession? Your distinction between religious and profane science does 
not help here ; it is ineflPective because it is false. The two domains are 
inseparable ; not only are all truths interdependent, but the order of 
notions which you call profane, I don't know why, always and every- 
where serves as the expression or the integument of what you call reli- 
gious beliefs. 

Adelphi. — ^In every order of knowledge authority has its function — 
that of testimony itself. In mathematics, where testimony has no place, 
authority has none. In history, where almost everything rests upon 
testimony, the part of authority is considerable. Will you not grant 
me that the authority of a witness is proportioned to his right to be 
believed? Does not the holiness of Christ give absolute authority to his 
testimony in the things of God? 



7. — You have raised the question of historic testimony and its 
authority. We will examine that presently. But first let me set aside 
this last method of establishing doctrinal authority, by basing it upon 
the holiness of Christ. It is not worth more than the, others, and I think 
I have already refuted it. I have shown that the utterances of Jesus 
being known to us only by apostolic tradition, nothing can guarantee to 
us that tradition has preserved the entire thought of the Saviour, or 
always with the meaning which it had upon his lips for those who heard 
him, and which was determined by the occasion. Besides, though holiness 
incontestably purifies a man's inward eye and renders the operations of 
his mind more accurate, it is no less certain, as nearly all conservative 
theologians admit, that it did not raise Christ above the sphere of human 
fallibility; it did not prevent his inheriting the religious conceptions 
and traditions of his people, so far as these did not run counter to his 
personal religious inspiration. Many an error may be due to sin. 
But error, so far as it is an intellectual act or a mental condition, is not 
a sin. Therefore, neither in fact nor in theory is it right or possible 
to postulate the absolute infallibility of the sayings of Jesus in the his- 
toric form in which we possess them. Are we at last agreed on this 
point? And are we finally rid of those incongruous and contradictory 
ideas, relative authority and limited infallibility? 

Adelphi. — Yes, from the formal view-point of religious knowledge 
and the question of method; no, from the material view-point of the 
facts which constitute the revelation of God and the historic testimony 
which attests it. It seems to me that the latter is still an authority, so 
far as it partakes of the divinity of its contents. The Bible, the history 
of revelation, is invested for us with the authority of revelation, unless 
the latter has no reality. Let me explain myself. 

The Christian religion is not a philosophy, nor even a purely subjec- 
tive religious inspiration. It is a well-defined historic fact, and conse- 
quently objective and resistant, on which our faith may and ought to 
rest. Otherwise it floats in the air, and becomes a fanciful dream. You 


dread the fanaticism of the illiiminati ; there is no other help for it except 
history and tradition. Recall to mind the admirable theory of Rothe. 
He distinguishes in revelation two classes : the words of "God in the con- 
sciousness of men of God, or inspiration, and acts of God in the history 
of humanity, or history of God. Without the first element acts are 
mute and dead; without the second inspiration is purely subjective and 
without purpose. The two interpenetrate and form a living organism, 
like the soul and the body. The body may be infirm, sickly, made of 
earthly clay, but it is still a living body and not a corpse. So with 
the Bible; it is alive by the spirit which fills it, and, like all living bodies, 
it exercises an undeniable action. 

/. — Your words are golden, and I shall certainly not contradict 
opinions which are my own. Yes, religious inspiration has for correla- 
tive a religious purpose in nature and in history. The Christian religion 
is a historic fact, and the divine revelation given to man is the history of 
the acts of God, by which God carries on his work of educating and re- 
deeming humanity. Every religious belief has as its inevitable conse- 
quence an interpretation of the religious history of humanity. The 
attentive study and meditation of this history are absolutely necessary 
to foster, strengthen, and enlighten the religious sense, if it is not to 
wander astray in the bypaths of illuminism. For what other reason 
have I almost continually confined myself to the critical study of this 
history, and fonned all my religious philosophy from the point of view 
of history and psycholog}'? I like, too, to hear you speak of the Bible 
as a living organism, having a soul and a body, and to see you propor- 
tioning its authority to its eff'ects. But by so doing you yourself recog- 
nise differences in it. In the presence of texts which produce no effect, 
or which might even prove dangerous if the letter were blindly followed, 
you say that the authority of the Bible is of no force. Where its influ- 
ence is of slight importance you esteem its authority small; where it is 
convincing, luminous, regenerating, and sanctifying, you attribute to 
it even divine authority. But where do you find the criterion by which 


you establish these degrees and justify these differences? Is it not in 
your Christian consciousness, illuminated by the light of the Spirit? 
There is a diamond in this book, a ]if e-draught in this vase of clay. But 
you do not value the case equally with the jewel, nor the clay as the 
liquor. You admit that the most imperfect, the most rudimentary 
human testimony may bring us a message from God, and teach us to 
recognise it as such by the response which it awakes in our hearts. 

Adelphi. — I grant you all that; but there are acts which reveal God 
and continue to reveal him, independently of the effect which they pro- 
duce upon us. 

/. — Patience ! I am coming to that. But let us take up the ques- 
tions in order and close each one upon which we agree before opening 

You speak of acts of God which constitute his objective revelation. 
I admit them quite as much as you or Rothe himself. No man can have 
felt the presence and action of God in his heart without finding traces 
of his presence active in all the universe. But let us state the question 
in all its amplitude, that we may see it as it is. God works and acts in 
nature. Jesus has taught us to see behind all phenomena and their laws 
the constant activity of a Father. The thought of God in nature is 
mysterious, often disconcerting. Yet our faith clings to it. There is 
in it a revelation of God. " The heavens declare the glory of God," said 
the psalmist of Israel. We say it too, but observe that we say it other- 
wise — I mean with another view of the physical universe. Modem 
astronomy has subjected to criticism the Psalmist's notions about the 
heavens and their hosts, and has dissipated them as so many childish 
imaginations. But do the heavens which it has discovered to us, the 
constitutions and courses of the worlds which it describes for us, give 
the religious man a smaller idea of the Creator's power? 

From nature let us pass to the history of humanity, and in particular 
to that of religions. Here again, what a revolution has historical criti- 
cism not made ! Are we not constrained to recognise a positive activity, 


a history of God, in what we used to call paganism? Has he ceased to 
give everywhere witnesses of his presence and inspirations of the truth? 
Do we not discover them in the religions of China, of India, of Babylon, 
in the moral achievement of Greece and Rome? In short, the criticism 
of the documents reconstructs the history of humanity, till now almost 
unknown, and in this history the pious man recognises and hails the 
pedagogic work of his God. 

This divine revelation becomes more exalted, more definite, stronger, 
and clearer in the history of the Hebrew people, in the life of Christ, of 
his apostles, and of all Christendom. You say that here we have a special 
revelation, and I do not doubt it — miraculous, I grant this also, since 
every act of God is miraculous to faith. But I add that the events of 
this history, like those of all the others, have been historically and psycho- 
logically conditioned, and for that very reason they are intelligible, they 
form a chain and are material for science. But this history of Israel 
and of the origins of Christianity ought to be studied and criticised like 
all the others, if we would know them historically. Otherwise we run 
the risk of taking the shadow, the legend, for the reality. We must 
then weigh testimonies, fix the age and value of the documents, work out 
an exegesis of them at once historical and grammatical. And we may 
arrive at a conception of this history entirely different from that held 
by the Church Fathers, without finding the work of God to be less strik- 
ing and worthy of admiration. 

In vain do we stiffen ourselves against this method and determine 
a priori to maintain the absolute historicity of the traditions found in 
Genesis; our obstinacy will not change the fact that the anonymous 
account which we possess is later by several thousands of years than 
the events it narrates. Likewise the criticism of the Pentateuch con- 
strains us to modify seriously our ideas of the legislation of Sinai and 
the desert. In other words, we do not cease to see the revealing activity 
of God in the history of Israel, but we understand it differently. 

So with the life of Jesus Christ and of his apostles. Here the docu- 



ments are more numerous and positive. The reality of the events is 
easier to grasp, and free from other material. But we cannot deny 
that legend and theological speculation are mingled with them in the 
traditional history which has come down to us. Here again historic 
criticism has its work to do and ought to do it in full liberty. 

Adelphi. — It is precisely the dissolving action of this criticism that 
alarms me. How can you reconcile the unlimited exercise of your criti- 
cism with the existence of a positive and well-defined Christianity? 

/. — Here indeed we come to the last question, and the decisive one. 
Let us study it at leisure. By it two things, criticism and the Christian 
religion, are confronted with one another. Let us see how they behave 
toward one another. 

With regard to historic criticism I maintain that its rights are 
illimitable, but that its power is not. You grant me these two proposi- 

Adelphi. — I cannot dispute the first, for I do not see where can be 
the authority which could limit the rights of criticism. To limit the 
right of inquiry amounts to the same as denying it. I see that very 
clearly. Your second assertion is less clear to me. If the rights of 
criticism are unlimited, why should not its power be so? It seems to 
me that with the ability to question everything it can destroy every- 

/. — The conclusion is not imperative. What is historic criticism 
concerned with? With the very reality of the events of the past? No, 
simply with the subjective representation of them that we make for our- 
selves. It cannot modify the facts themselves, which remain what they 
always were ; what it modifies is our idea or knowledge of them. Do not 
fear, then, that criticism will banish history ; it has no other purpose 
or power than to make it known to us more certainly and accurately. 
The notion of a purely negative criticism is nonsense, criticism being con- 
sidered as a whole work, and not in some special detail. In reality it 
never leaves the mind vacant, nor the past empty ; at most it substitutes 


for one idea of things past another which it believes to be more correct. „ 
No doubt it is often mistaken; but precisely by virtue of the object it 
pursues, it profits by its errors and turns its disproved hypotheses to 
the advantage of the truth. The dumb resistance which historic reality 
offers to its fancies and provisional conclusions warns it that it has not 
seen the whole and must begin its work over again. We should not draw 
from this a reason for shutting it up to scepticism. Incontestable 
results have been obtained in the amendment of the texts, the relative 
chronology of documents, and in the historical and grammatical explana- 
tion of passages formerly misunderstood. 

In showing a legend to be such, destroying a prejudice, demonstrat- 
ing the uncertainty of something which in fact is uncertain, that is to 
say, in making evident to us where our knowledge ends and our ignorance 
begins, it is continually instructing us, and efficaciously serves the cause 
of positive history. Is it not true that, thanks to criticism, we know 
the history of Greece and Rome, of Egypt and India, of Islam and 
Buddhism, of ancient Chaldea and of our Middle Ages better than they 
were known in the seventeenth or eighteenth centuries ? Likewise I don't 
hesitate to say that we have a more positive knowledge of the history 
of the Israelitish people, of the life of Jesus and of the apostolate than 
the Fathers of the Church and the Reformers had. To sum up, God 
has confided to men and to human witnesses the preaching and preserva- 
tion of the gospel of salvation. If its testimony is subject to changes; 
to inconsistencies, obscurities which sometimes compromise it, he has 
given us the faculty of discernment, and at the proper time he has raised 
up the science of historic criticism which progressively gives greater 
light, and counterbalances the inevitable weaknesses of the human mind 
by establishing its equilibrium. You should therefore bless criticism, 
not ban it. 

Adelphi. — I shall bless it when you have shown me how it can be 
saving Christianity when it seems to be destroying it. 

/. — There is certainly a traditional notion of Christianity which is 



incompatible with historic criticism; but it remains to be seen whether 
this is a correct notion and whether it does not need reforming. You 
have spoken of a " positive and determined Christianity " which it is 
important to maintain. Will you kindly tell me in what it consists, and 
what are its articles which we must believe under penalty of falling short 
of salvation? 

Adelphi. — The thing is easier to understand than to state. 

I. — That is no doubt the reason why everyone understands it as he 
likes and no one defines it. But if the Christian religion is indefinable ex- 
cept by the arbitrary decision of an ecclesiastical authority, may it not be 
that the general notion of it is inconsistent, and, to some degree, false.'' 
Catholicism presents me with a long list of articles to believe under peril 
of damnation. The list is not so long in the Anglican confession, still 
less in that of La Rochelle, and finally it is infinitely shortened in that of 
the Reformed Synod of 1872. Where shall I find an authentic and faith- 
ful statement of the articles which would constitute that positive Chris- 
tianity of which I hear so much.? 

Adelphi. — In any case Churches and theologians agree that the Chris- 
tian religion is inseparable from the historic hfe of Jesus Christ. Have 
you not said so yourself? 

/. — And I say it again. But there is more than one way of con- 
necting the Christian religion with the person and life of Christ. The 
Apostle Paul in his Epistles omits or ignores the entire life of the Master, 
his miraculous birth, his miracles, his teaching, and connects his gospel 
with a single fact, the death of Christ upon the cross. On the other 
hand, Athanasius and the Greek Church Fathers, inspired by St. John, 
concentrate all their teaching upon the fact of the birth, or the incar- 
nation of the Word of God, who redeems, renews, and saves human 
nature, by identifying himself with it and so lifting it to the divine. 
Still farther, Socinians and rationalists find with St. James the saving 
word and the essence of the gospel only in the moral teachings of Jesus. 
Evidently none of these theologians is absolutely wrong, but neither is 


any one of them exclusively right. The doctrine of the cross, the doctrine 
of the Incarnate Word, the moral teachings of the parables, and the 
Sermon on the Mount may all be traced back to a deeper principle of 
which these doctrines are so many different expressions. The death of 
Jesus was the blow which broke the alabaster box and set free the divine 
perfume of his heart, which was renunciation, sacrifice, love. The doc- 
trine of the Word expresses that absolute union with God, that immanence 
of the Father in him, that sense of divine Sonship, which was the basis 
of his religious consciousness. And what are his discourses, if not the 
preaching of that gospel of love and forgiveness which was the outcome 
of his consciousness, and which made the salvation of sinners depend only 
upon repentance, trust, and the yielding up of the heart.? In the reli- 
gious consciousness of Jesus we find the initial divine fact, the creative 
fact, the seed from which the tree has grown. 

Adelphi. — Does not the very fact of the existence of such a con- 
sciousness constitute a minimum, a historic residue which must be with- 
drawn from criticism? Who is to assure you that criticism will respect 
that any more than all the rest.** In the last resort, you see, you are 
under the same banner with us. 

/. — You would be right if I had said that the Christian religion con- 
sists in admitting the historic thesis that such a consciousness appeared 
in the world at a given date. Indeed you may admit this thesis and still 
not be a Christian. He who has made a critical demonstration of the 
fact has still to believe, to receive the gospel of salvation by faith alone, 
with repentance and the consecration of the heart. For the Christian 
faith is not a belief. Though it is never without an intellectual element, 
it is not an intellectual act. It is a moral act, having, like all moral 
acts, its sanction and sufficient warrant within itself. This is what be- 
lievers call the witness of the Holy Spirit, which gives them their firm 
confidence. The assurance of faith is never founded on human authority 
or logical or historical demonstration; it must be, and it actually is, as 
Calvin says, drawn from a higher source; it comes from God himself. 


Now this experimental faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ, awakened 
in us by the most imperfect preaching, the most feeble testimony, 
humanly speaking, of the most ignorant of Christians, produces a reli- 
gious consciousness identical with that of Jesus ; it gives us a conscious- 
ness of inward reconciliation with God and of divine sonship. Thus the 
religious and moral consciousness of Jesus is repeated, continued, dif- 
fused, and remains actually present and living in each Christian genera- 
tion, independently of criticism, which may peacefully continue its 
labours without the slightest risk of doing it harm. Faith thus under- 
stood has nothing to fear from historic criticism ; it belongs to another 

At this capital point we find the parting of the ways between two 
conceptions of the Christian religion, two theologies. On one side is 
traditional theology, a more or less mitigated orthodoxy, representing 
a dualistic conception of Christianity ; the gospel of salvation consisting 
in a series of historic or dogmatic beliefs, plus the living faith of the 
heart. Men are not saved by faith alone, but by faith and right beliefs, 
just as in Catholicism they are saved by faith and good works. Over 
against this dualistic. Catholic conception there is the monistic concep- 
tion, organic, interior, of salvation by faith produced by the simple 
preaching of the gospel of Christ and sealed in the heart by the Holy 
Spirit. It is the conception of Luther, of Calvin, of St. Paul, and, above 
all, it is the conception of the Master. This is the essential basis of the 
Christian religion, which, to be accepted, has need of no external author- 
ity as its warrant, whether that of a priest, or of a book, or of science. 
Science, book, ecclesiastical ministry, sacraments — to faith they are all 
means of grace, of which it makes use with thanks to God; but these 
means belong to faith, not faith to them. Do you not perceive 
how, the organic unity of the Christian religion being found, the entire 
system reconstructs itself in order, with the reciprocal subordination 

* E. Mdndgoz, " Reflexions sur I'Evangile du Salut," in " Publications diverses sur 
le Fid^isme," Paris, 1900. 


of all its parts? At the same time, being inwardly enfranchised and 
set at peace, the Christian soul finds harmony in all its faculties, which 
till now were discordant. The intelligence no longer wars against the 
conscience, the reason against the will to believe, scientific activity against 
practical activity. All work together, in full liberty, with a sense of 
entire consecration to the work which God, by the activity of the Spirit, 
is carrying on in us and in the universe. 

Adelphi. — You make your ideas most attractive. I see no theoreti- 
cal objection to them. But I still find one, and a very grave one, in 
the practical order. If I understand you aright, you make the truth 
of the Christian religion to rest upon the experience of faith, that is to 
say, upon the religious life of the Christian. But how uncertain, incon- 
stant, weak is this life, even among the most fervent ! Are you not 
building upon the quicksand? If the Christian life were to be extin- 
guished the Christian religion would vanish with it. You were but now 
expressing sympathy with the weak, the humble, the ignorant; are not 
you now condemning them to feed upon their own poverty, to lean upon 
their own weakness; and even we, in our hours of languor and spiritual 
death, have we not need of support and comfort? 

I. — I am sorry to say that these last words prove to me that you have 
not grasped my thought. Where, pray, did you discern that I deprive 
Christians, whether strong or feeble, of the support, the succour, the 
means of grace, that the goodness of God has provided for them? The 
Church, preaching, the Bible, the communion of saints, the sacraments, 
the example and the love of the brethren, are not all these theirs, and is 
it not their right, or rather their duty, to make continual use of them? 
We are never without these stimulating influences, these means of edu- 
cation and uplift. But what is the object of the means of grace? It 
is to create, foster, strengthen in us the hfe of faith, not to take its 
place ; to make us live, not to exempt us from living. 

Have you not perceived the dangers of the system of authority? 
When religion is identified with faith in established authority, whether 


Pope, council, Bible, or synod, if the authority becomes open to suspi- 
cion or is convinced of error on a single point, everything goes to pieces, 
and is overwhelmed in doubt. If, on the other hand, the sense of 
security is complete, the peril is not less to be dreaded. We have sub- 
mitted to authority, and all is well. We are in the true Church, on 
the safe side ; we may go to sleep. 

Quite otherwise is it, I admit, with the religion of the Spirit. No 
doubt it also has its dangers ; but it has its resources. Let me read you 
these admirable words of Mr. Leopold Monod, who felt your difficulties 
and met them with these words : ^ " After all, it is j ust ( I would add that 
it is logical) that if my inner life grows sluggish, if comforts and self- 
esteem have usurped control over me, if indifference has benumbed and 
paralysed my conscience, it is just and right that I should lose my assur- 
ance, that I should feel myself tottering and not know which support 
to grasp. As soon as the support of the Spirit fails us, we seek for 
other supports. But there are no others ; there ought to be none. We 
desire, as has been accurately said, to believe without believing^ to pos- 
sess a means of believing, a semblance of faith, in hours when the spiritual 
life declines and we believe no longer. Such a means does not exist; it 
must not exist. It must not be possible for us to imagine ourselves safe 
because we have taken shelter in correct beliefs or in practices of an 
official devotion. The just shall live by faith. And faith is an energy 
which takes hold on divine grace and makes it active in a human life 
dedicated to the service of God and the brethren. An authority which 
should absolve from faith by sanctioning a false confidence in belief 
would not be a gospel authority." * 

This is perfectly true. When life is languishing and dying in 
indifference oi* in sin it avails not to resort to authority or criticism ; we 
must betake ourselves to repentance and prayer. The gate is narrow 
which opens upon the way of life : if after passing through it we wander 
from that way, we can return to it only by entering again through the 
same door, for there is no other. 

* L. Monod, "■ Le probl^me de rautorit^" 2d ed., p. 125. 


As for the future of the Christian religion, why should we fear for it, 
if it is a work of God? Does it seem to you more fragile because it is 
a life rather than a belief? Please observe this: If the individual 
organism is above all things precarious, subject to accidents, to maladies, 
and death, on the other hand there is nothing in the world more per- 
sistent, more durable, more fruitful, than the power of life. Physiolo- 
gists tell us that death itself is only one of its forms and functions. The 
smallest germ suffices to carry life where it never was before, and to 
rekindle it when it seemed extinct. We may cease to be its organs, but 
it will never be without organs, there will always be those to propagate 
it, for its all-powerful force is incessantly creating them. It is the fruit 
of the Spirit. But the Spirit never ceases its activity. It has been at 
work since the world began, it will continue to work until its end. Ex- 
ternal authorities have more than once changed in the history of Chris- 
tianity; the Spirit abides. From generation to generation he has made 
it new. If Jesus were with us now, he would say, with that voice of his 
that always brings assurance to timid hearts : " Oh, men of little faith, 
all that has grown old and vanished with the religion of authority is 
empty wine-skins and worn-out forms. Suffer the religion of the Spirit 
to appear \ " 

A long silence followed. My friend and I remained in profound 
meditation, following, with a common emotion, the leadings of our indi- 
vidual thought. Each felt that we had exhausted the subject of our 
conversation. Adelphi, however, felt impelled to pursue it farther. He 
did so in the following words. 


Why Has the Christian Religion Hitherto Taken On Authoritative 


Adelphi. — Permit me to go on to the end of my questioning. This is 
the last of it. 


How do you explain the fact that all Christian Churches, in every 
age, have establishel within themselves some infallible dogmatic authority 
to guarantee the truth of their teaching? If the Christian religion has 
till now been kept alive only by such an organ, can you hope that it will 
continue to live after losing it? 

/, — Consider this. You recognise that these infallible authorities 
have changed in the course of ages. In the time of Ignatius, infallibility, 
the organ of the truth, resided in the parochial bishop ; in the time of 
Cyprian, in the entire episcopal body ; Gerson and the Fathers of Basel 
and Constance found it in the council; they of the Vatican found it in 
the person of the Pope. Protestants rejected all these authorities, and 
in the eighteenth century substituted for them the letter of Scripture, 
and even in certain places their Confessions of Faith. We note, however, 
that certain communities, such as the Quakers, have managed perfectly 
well to do without any exterior authority of this kind. This being the 
case, how are we to maintain that Christianity is inseparable from 
authorities which may change and disappear without checking its prog- 
ress in activity? Do you suppose that the same objection was not made 
to Luther — " By undermining the authority of tradition, which has 
reigned till now, you leave the Christian religion without support and 
exposed to destruction "? Has it been less alive or less fecund since 

I might rest with these observations, but it is best to go to the root 
of the matter. This persistence of authoritative forms is a curious 
phenomenon in Christianity, which was proclaimed to the world as a reli- 
gion of the Spirit, and which in fact is such by its essential principle. 
Is this phenomenon inexplicable? 

I can explain it in two ways. The first is psychological. An inno- 
cent and natural delusion of popular faith in its first stage of develop- 
ment transfers the supernatural and divine character of its object to 
those organs by which the divine communicates itself or makes itself 
known. Thus among savage peoples the sorcerer is invested with 


magical potency. Thus the sibyl is endowed with a supernatural power 
of sight. Thus the words of the Catholic priest for the people of his 
flock, and even those of the Protestant pastor for the ignorant among 
his people, become the very word of God. No otherwise have the 
Catholic Church and the Bible, both of them human organs of divine 
revelation, been endowed by Christian dogmatism with the privilege of 
infallibility, and many people cannot understand how this privilege can 
be so much as questioned by any but unbelievers. This is why all the 
religions of antiquity were religions of authority. 

In the second place there is a historic reason. We find in the history 
of civilisations a law that the mental and social forms, ideas, and customs 
of earlier ages long persist, and project themselves into the higher civili- 
sation which believes itself to have gone far beyond them. Nowhere 
are these survivals of the past more frequent than in the history of reli- 
gions. For example, Christianity has replaced paganism and Judaism 
as a social and popular religion, at least in the Western world. But 
the older religions have not failed to take their reprisals. How often 
all along the history of the Church may we not discern them, scarcely 
disguised under Christian forms.? Is not the Catholic notion of the 
Church essentially sacerdotal.'' Are not the relations of the individual 
to divinity subordinated to his relation to the priest, as in the ancient 
religions.'' Are not the very words the same in both cases, sacerdos, 
pontifex? In the Catholic hierarchy does not the Pope occupy the place 
and bear the name, " Sovereign Pontiff," Pontifex Maximus, which be- 
longed to the official head of the Roman religion in the time of Augustus? 
Then, as now, the clergy formed a hierarchy and a caste, endowed with 
religious privileges which elevated them above the people. In both cases, 
regularity of priesthood is necessary to the efficacy of the opus opera- 
turn, to the distribution of the sacrament and the consummation of the 
sacrifice ; for wherever there is a hierarchy and a priesthood there must 
be a sacrifice and an altar. You may carry this parallelism through 
the history of the constitution of the Catholic Church, its dogma, its 


worship, the place given in it to the Virgin, to saints and angels and 
archangels, forming a series whose steps correspond to the heroes, demi- 
gods and goddesses of former days: will you dispute that in all this 
there has been a striking resurrection of that paganism which Roman 
Catholicism believes itself to have destroyed ? 

The same is also the case in Protestantism with what I may dare to 
call the superstition of the Bible, of the divine authority of the sacred 
letter. The dogma of verbal inspiration is not more original nor more 
new. It was long ago completely elaborated and established in the 
Judaism that preceded Jesus Christ. Protestant theologians of the 
seventeenth century were able to do nothing better than take up and 
revive the work of the Rabbins. 

How, then, shall we maintain that these authoritative forms of Chris- 
tianity were original with it, or are the results of its principle, when 
we see them insinuating themselves into it from without, and, having 
made themselves one with it, dragging it down to the level of the earlier 
religions which it believed itself to have abolished? It was impossible 
that the spiritual and entirely ideal principle of the gospel should in the 
very outset realise itself as a social and popular religion without being 
condemned to such an alloy by the very force of things. Forms of 
authority were a necessity to it. It would be as unreasonable to be scan- 
dalised because they temj>orarily prevailed as it would be to declare them 
eternal. The truth is that through the Christian ages they have never 
been in definitive and peaceful possession. There has always been a 
struggle between the true Christian spirit and that ponderous inheritance 
of the past which, however, has never been able quite to overpower it. 
It has at last triumphantly shaken off the Incubus, and to it the future 
is promised. But now it is like the captive bird which sees its cage 
falling to pieces around it. It has long been imprisoned, but now it 
is singing over the fragments, conscious of its wings and of liberty to 
use them. We may call the two completed periods in the history of the 
Christian religion the pagan and the Jewish periods ; the truly Christian 


period is about to begin. The religion of the priesthood and the reli- 
gion of the letter are outworn and dying before our eyes, making way 
for the rehgion of the Spirit. 

Adelphi. — You are continually repeating that expression. Can you 
define a little more clearly what you understand by the religion of the 

/. — It gives me far more pleasure to reply than you to ask. Be 
assured that I no more invented the expression than the thing. It be- 
longs to the Apostle Paul, who first opposed the ministry of the Spirit 
to that of the letter, thus strongly characterising the old and the new 
covenants by their principles of action. He immediately added, " The 
letter kills, but the Spirit makes alive." In this antithesis Paul's thought 
is very clearly evident. The letter, the alphabetic sign, characterises the 
Mosaic religion according to the form of its historic appearance, its mode 
of being and action. Written upon the stone, the Commandment of 
God remains exterior to man, both as an order and a menace; it enters 
into conflict with the carnal will, provokes it to transgression ; engenders 
the consciousness of sin, that, is, of condemnation and of death. The 
letter kills. The Spirit characterises the religion of the Gospel, accord- 
ing to the very nature of the inward and moral relation which it estab- '\^ 
lishes between God and man, according to the mode of being of the gospel 
and the principle of its action. The religious relation between the Chris- 
tian and his Father is no longer ruled by a written letter, fixed and dead, 
but by a living inspiration, which gives strength to do the will of God 
in the very act of revealing it. The Spirit is life, because it is the 
creative power itself ; it saves the sinner, regenerates him, makes him live. 

This being the case, it seems to me that you should understand what 

is the religion of the Spirit. It is the religious relation realised in pure - 

spirituality. It is God and man both conceived under the category of ^ 
the spirit, mutually interpenetrating and thus arriving at full com- 
munion. By definition bodies are mutually impenetrable, in the sense 
that two cannot occupy the same place; they can be individualised only 


by being isolated and opposed to one another, nor can they be in har- 
mony except as they reach an equilibrium by balancing themselves one 
against the other. Entirely otherwise are the relations of spirits. 
Their essential tendency is to live a mutual life, to come together in a 
higher common life. What the law of gravitation is for maintaining 
harmony in the physical world, that love is, and so it works in the spir- 
itual and moral world. Love is the vital force of spirits. By going out 
of themselves, sharing themselves, giving themselves, they realise their 
individuality, in the very act of entering into union with one another. 
The religion of the Spirit is the religion of love. 

As the ultimate power of moral development in the human being, 
the Spirit of God brings to it no constraint from without ; it determines 
and animates it from within, and thus maintains its life. Thenceforth 
there is no dualism between human morality and the higher angelic life. 
The performance of natural duties, the regular exercise of all human 
faculties, the progress of culture as of righteousness, these make the 
perfection of the Christian life. When the Christian religion becomes 
an inward reality, a fact of consciousness, it is nothing other than con- 
sciousness raised to its highest power. The religious ideal and the human 
ideal, the Kingdom of God and the highest good, are identical. Those 
oppositions have vanished which gave birth to conflicts and servitudes. 
The religion of the Spirit is the religion of liberty. 

In the degree in which God, by his Spirit, lives and works in us, we 
live and work in him ; we come out of our natural egotism, we are ever- 
more perfectly set free from the bondage of the flesh and of sin. To 
be set free from evil is to be consecrated to God. The religion of the 
Spirit is the religion of holiness. 

To aspire after this spiritual religion is therefore not to devise a 
new religion, but to return to the true Christian principle. It is to 
grasp the primitive gospel in its reality, to follow the Reformers in 
clearing it of all human additions, so restoring its true strength. The 
principle of the Reformation abides permanently in the Church. What- 


ever may be the importance of the event of the sixteenth century, the 
Reformation is something still to be done, something to be perpetually 
done anew, something for which Luther and Calvin simply made ready 
a fair field/ You recognise the words of Vinet, the great prophet of 
the rehgion of the Spirit in our age and country. I give you another 
utterance of his by way of closing this long conversation. " Protes- 
tantism is for me only the starting point ; niy religion is beyond. I may, 
as a Protestant, hold some Catholic opinions, and who knows that I do 
not.? That which I absolutely repudiate is authority.'" The time has 
come, it seems to me, for those who have broken with authority in their 
inner life to break definitely with it in their theology. 

Adelphi. — Thank you. I dare not say that you have silenced all my 
doubts or done away with all my scruples. But I understand your pur- 
pose better, and I no longer feel free to judge it. I would wish to be 
initiated into the religion and theology of the Spirit. Send me the 
conclusion of your work as soon as you can; then we will take up the 
subject again. Adieu. 




The Teaching of Jesus; its Form 

The gospel, in its very principle, implied the abrogation of religions 
of authority, and inaugurated as a fact the religion of the Spirit. The 
reUgious relation which it instituted between God and man was not de- 
termined by the necessary mediation of a priest, nor by the oblig&tory 
'Vinet, "Littdrat. au XlXme sifecle," ui. v. 392. 


letter of a law, but by the inner bond of love, by the consciousness of a 
filial relation between child and father. Thus the centre of gravity of 
the religious life was changed from without to within, from the institu- 
tion to the conscience. The institution was not by that act abolished, 
but it became an accessory ; it no longer appeared to be indispensable, and 
was doomed to be modified or to pass away as soon as it was seen to be 
useless, or inimical to true piety. 

Jesus was entirely aware of the revolution which he was setting in 
operation. Of all his utterances there is not one which is farther re- 
moved from the mode of thought of his time, and consequently more 
authentic than this : " The rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and 
their great ones exercise authority over them. Not so shall it be among 
you ; but whosoever would become great among you shall be your serv- 
ant." And again, in another connection, but in the closest relations 
with the first declaration : " But be not ye called Rabbi ; for one is your 
teacher and all ye are brethren. And call no man your father on the 
earth, for but one is your Father, even he who is in heaven." Jesus was 
not considering merely names and titles whose use is regulated by the 
sense in which they are employed. He was attacking and condemning 
the very principle of a religious hierarchy, which in the earlier religions 
had divided men into two classes, putting the consciences of one class 
under the tutelage of the other. What he proclaimed was fraternal 
equality, the spiritual independence of Christians, founded upon their 
filial relation to the heavenly father.* 

It is true that in the same discourse Christ insists upon his own 
unique and entirely special function of religious teacher, his teachings 
and his person being the means by which his disciples are led into this 
personal, direct filial communion with the Father. Under this head he 
is entitled to and possesses a real authority. What is the nature of this 
authority, and how he exercises it, is what we have now to learn. 

Let us take as our starting point the reflection by which the first 
Evangelist closes the Sermon on the Mount : " The multitudes were 

* Appendix LXXXVI. 


astonished at his teaching; for he taught as one having authority, and 
not as their scribes." We gain a true idea of the contrast between Jesus 
and the scribes estabhshed by this text, when we become clearly aware 
of the difference between teaching as having authority, and teaching 
by authority. The scribes who sat " in Moses' seat " spoke by author- 
ity. Their minute and severe orthodoxy was invested with the resolute 
objectivity and infallibility of a sacred text. But in the souls both of 
those who taught and those who heard it was lacking in that special 
sanction which the human conscience gives to truth, and which the truth 
must have if it is to appear divine, and take entire possession of us. 
This is why a teaching by authority is without real power and without 

Jesus, on the»other hand, invoked no external sanction ; he not only 
did not shelter himself behind the authority of Moses, but he felt no 
scruple nor embarrassment in taking exception to the venerated law of 
the scribes and Pharisees, correcting and completing it with a freedom 
which often brought upon him the accusation of heresy and blasphemy. 
In the Sermon on the Mount he did not once appeal to miracles; if at 
other times he refers to his works of healing it is only by way of warn- 
ing, to awaken the attention and the consciences of his hearers, never to 
justify a doctrine which would not find its highest sanction in the volun- 
tary adherence of the conscience. He steadfastly refused to perform 
any miracle to overcome the incredulity of those who argued with him, 
and always fell back upon this as the only decisive argument : " If any 
man wills to do the will of the Father, he will know of my teaching, 
whether it be of God or whether I speak of myself." It is before all 
else the virtue, the efficacy of his word which gives it authority. His 
teaching forces itself upon souls because it takes hold of them and subju- 
gates them as the truth itself does when it shows itself in its own lumi- 
nous evidence — as hohness and love do when, mingling in one, they reveal 
themselves by the power of their own radiance. Doubtless every sen- 
tence of Jesus has reveahng power ; we may call it a ray from heaven if 


we will, but conscience welcomes and embraces it as a light essentially its 
own. Thus his words so incorporate themselves in the conscience that 
it can neither forget nor repudiate them without repudiating itself. 

Test this statement by different parts of the Sermon on the Mount. 
The human conscience may in a lower degree have responded to moral 
prescriptions which Jesus criticises, but once having heard the new 
voice, how shall it resist it or oppose its utterances? Must it not forever 
accept the Master's teachings about the true brotherly love, the purity 
of the inward eye, the beginning of sin in lust, the love of enemies, the 
forgiveness of offences, secret prayer, true piety? This being so, do 
you not understand the assurance and the sovereign authority with which 
Jesus proclaims the new law and preaches his gospel, opposes his dictum 
to that of the elders and even to that of Moses? In his consciousness 
reigned such a divine illumination, so profound and calm an assurance, 
so clear a perception, that all upright souls would equally and at once 
recognise " the word of God " which he had within himself, so that he 
could feel no hesitation or doubt ; to himself and to others he could say : 

/ " Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away." 
For in fact moral truth is for the conscience as strong and eternal as 
God himself.^ 

k Therefore, Jesus was not concerned to display his miraculous gifts 

and vouchers to support the truth of his gospel, but rather preached 
the gospel in order to awaken souls subdued and touched to some con- 
ception of the dignity of his person and the greatness of his work. He 
does not command belief; he creates and inspires confidence, which is 
something entirely different. Instead of terrorising and stupefying the 
mind he wakens it and stimulates it to activity. How often he bewails 
the slowness and dulness of apprehension of which his hearers and his 
disciples give evidence ! He uses the method of parables to no other end. 
His parables are sealed to inert or ill-disposed consciences, but they fly 

* The apostle Paul expresses the same assurance, the same kind of moral invinci- 
bility, in Gal. i. 6-9. Luther, also, in many places. 


open like rich treasure-houses to those who thirst for righteousness and 
eternal life, the best goods of the Kingdom of Heaven. " He that asketh 
receiveth, he that seeketh findeth, and to him that knocks it shall be 
opened." Above all, he seeks to awake the needs that he desires to sat-^ 
isfy. " Blessed are the poor ! " — to create the hunger and thirst that 
he intends to fill : " Blessed are they that hunger and thirst ! " — to incite 
to a search which he will change into possession. The spiritual life is 
not a state, it is an aspiration, a desire, a prayer, an act. Hence the 
profound and most accurate meaning of those paradoxical sayings which 
self-satisfied devotees, the Pharisees of all periods, can never understand : 
" To him that hath shall be given, and from him that hath not shall be 
taken away even that which he hath. Take heed how ye hear; he that 
hath ears to hear, let him hear ; with what measure ye mete it shall be 
measured unto you." ^ 

Jesus' method of teaching is then the opposite of that of the scribes, 
that is, the method of authority. It is rather a sort of divine maieutic, 
tending to give birth to a new life in the heart, to create the spiritual 
man in the carnal and animal man.^ 

To such a purpose every method of authority would have been un- 
equal and contradictory. The words of Jesus do not find their end in 
themselves — they are only means. This is why they are so free, so 
suited to the occasion, so paradoxical, so foreign and rebellious to any 
systematic order. 

Purposing above all things to arouse his hearers to religious and 
moral activity, the Master always places himself in the circle of ideas 
in which they live, reasons according to their logic, willingly uses argu- 
ments ad hominem, clothes his thought in images and even in enigmas, 
sharpens all his words to a point which can penetrate the hardened heart, 
disturb the satisfied devotee, rouse inattentive souls. Being subject to 
no authority except that of God, they are absolutely unfit to serve as a 
fulcrum for a new religion of authority. To undertake, from a super- 
'Matt. vii. 6-8; Mark iv. 24, 26. "Matt, xviii. 3, xix. 14; John iii. 3-8. 



stitious notion of piety, to reduce them to dogmatic formulas is to show 
a lack of comprehension of their spirit, their purpose, and their value. 

The authority of Jesus is the authority of the things that he teaches, 
the divine work which he carries on in the hearts of men. It is the 
authority of his person, if we will, so far as his person is the incarnation 
of his gospel, and as both are clothed with the ascendency of holiness and 
the conquering charm of love. He proposes to men the divine verities 
which were revealed to him in his consciousness, and by proposing he 
imposes them, or rather, they impose themselves by their own virtue. By 
an all-powerful moral contagion he communicates to others the divine 
life which is in himself. He believes in the spiritual vocation of the 
human soul, in its affinity with the divine ; he has only to put it in con- 
tact with truth and life and it receives both as intrinsic to itself. 

His word is like a seed scattered with full hands in the confidence 
that it will never fall upon good ground without taking root and multi- 
plying indefinitely. His authority over the conscience is of the same 
nature as that of God, — inward, moral, — and, by that very fact, sov- 
ereign ; it is the authority not of the letter which oppresses and kills, but 
of the Spirit which makes alive/ 


Jesus and the Old Testament 

The scribes one day brought before Jesus the question of authority. 
"By what authority," they asked him, " doest thou these things?" 
The Master replied by another question : " The baptism of John ; was 
it from heaven or of men ? " This was according to his custom to trans- 
fer the debate from the field of scholasticism to that of conscience; to 
invoke the witness of the latter rather than that of an officially delegated 
or exterior authority. He might have appealed to Scripture to arbi- 
trate between himself and his adversaries. Why did he not do so? 

As a matter of fact, his attitude toward the law and the prophets 
» Appendix LXXXVII. 


was entirely different from that of the Pharisees, and he was still less 
in accord with them as to the proper way of reading the Scriptures than 
as to the conclusions to be drawn from them. 

The attitude of Jesus in this regard was twofold. On one hand, he 
recognised in Judaism a divine dispensation, the religion of the true 
God, and consequently given by God. His religious consciousness was 
not only rooted in this age-long tradition, it lived in it and drew from it 
unceasing edification. Jesus was ever in intimate and familiar com- 
munion with the patriarchs, the prophets, and all the " men of God " who 
had preceded him. So with regard to the Scriptures which made him 
acquainted with them. He never concerns himself with such historic and 
literary questions as might arise from the character of the sacred col- 
lection. He finds in it the Spirit of the Father, his own animating 
Spirit, and consequently it is to him " the Word of God." We must 
therefore not be too much surprised when, from his purely religious and 
moral standpoint, he undertakes to show how he values the Law and 
the Prophets by protesting that he proposes not to abolish, but to fulfil 
them, even adding that " till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one 
tittle shall in no wise pass away from the law, till all things be accom- 
plished." ^ 

Yet it is no less evident that here as elsewhere he uses Scripture in 
sovereign liberty. He always instinctively goes straight to the moral 
and religious element of the sacred books, and takes account of nothing 
else. The starting point of his exegesis is therefore essentially different 
from that of the literal legalism of the rabbis or the allegorical method 
of Philo and the Gnostics. By an elective affinity, the more unerring 
because anterior to all reasoning, his consciousness assimilates all that is 
homogeneous to it, and by that act transforms it into something appar- 
ently both old and new, most conservative and most revolutionary. 
Jesus never quotes a text as of authority because it is a part of Holyi 
Scripture, but always as having authority in itself, by virtue of the 
sentiment it expresses. Unhesitatingly and without compunction, there- 

*Matt. V. 17, 18. 



fore, he sets aside all such as contradict his own inward experience, and 
emphasises those which confirm and sanction it. To the prescriptions 
of Leviticus he opposes the prophetic word, " I desire mercy and not 
sacrifice." He cites the example of David and of the priests themselves 
against the rigour of Pharisaic jurisprudence concerning the Sabbath. 
When the authorisation of divorce accorded by Moses is brought before 
him, he sets it aside as a concession to hardness of heart. ^ Thus the law 
seems to lose all its arbitrary precepts. He sums it up in two command- 
ments, love of God and of the neighbour. He sets this moral substance 
apart from all the rest, and shows all the rest to be fulfilled in it. 

The Pharisees made no mistake as to the outcome of this method. 
They accused Jesus of being a transgressor of the law, a despiser of 
Moses, an enemy of the temple and the established religion ; and in truth 
he did deduce an entirely new religion from the old ; out of its legal forms 
of righteousness he drew an entirely new principle of righteousness, from 
its narrow morals a higher morality ; and if it was his purpose to destroy 
only by fulfilling, his fulfilment was in fact nothing less than a radical 

It is easy to concede to Jesus the liberty of which he gives proof 
with respect to ancient Scriptures and traditional institutions. But 
do his disciples share it? Was it not an exceptional, divine prerogative, 
reserved to the Messiah, as the founder of the new covenant? So to 
judge would be to show an entire want of apprehension of the method 
of Jesus, and the critical principle by virtue of which he carried on and 
completed his reforming work. 

It has already been said that his religious consciousness, by a secret 
affinity, an infallible inspiration, seized upon the moral substance, the 
purely religious element of the Law and the Prophets, and actually dis- 
engaged from it the germ of a new religion, a worship in spirit and in 
truth, letting all the rest fall away like dead leaves. But further, the 
constant effort of Jesus in the training of his disciples was to create in 
them a moral consciousness identical with his own, and by this means to 
*Matt. ix. 13, xli. 3-5, xix. 3-9, 


put them in a condition to carry on his work of criticism, to pursue his 
task of distinguishing between that which is eternal and that which is 
perishable in the Old Testament. Jesus did not employ a didactic process 
in this work. He laid down its principles, applying them, by way of 
example, to a few particular cases, such as the Sabbath, fasting, food, 
not to limit the reformation, but to introduce it, to reveal its spirit, and 
open the way for its further progress. 

Therefore he authoritatively abrogated nothing; he justified to the 
consciences of the least of his disciples the abrogations which he pro- 
nounced; he wanted them to understand what he was doing, and to this 
end he always put in the clearest light the general principle which in- 
spired his acts. But this principle was drawn, not from heaven nor from ^^ 
any supernatural authority, but from the very depths of the human 
consciousness, so that, once it was proclaimed, conscience must recognise 
it as its own, and could not let it go. 

There are abundant examples of his method. One day the Pharisees 
are scandalised at seeing Jesus receiving and eating with publicans and 
people of bad reputation, and Jesus replies, " Mercy is of more value 
than sacrifice ; go ye and learn what that means, and then you will under- 
stand why the physician goes to them who are sick and not to them who 
are well." ^ Setting aside the obligation to fast, he refers to the pop- 
ular experience that it is not well to sew a piece of new cloth (the gospel) 
upon an old garment (the old religion of outward practices). Discus- 
sions concerning the Sabbath lead up to two general theses : " The Sab- 
bath is made for man and not man for the Sabbath," and " It is lawful 
[and therefore obligatory] to do good on the Sabbath day " as on other 
days. Especially noteworthy is his condemnation of the Korban of the 
Pharisees, which absolved a son from duty to father and mother on the 
pretext that he had offered to God, that is, to the temple, the equivalent 
of what he ought to have given them. As to clean and unclean meats, 
and legal uncleannesses, what a radical overturning of Jewish ideas of 
devotion lies in the one reflection that nothing that enters a man can 
»Matt. ix. 10-13; Luke v. 29-32. 



soil him morally, but only that which proceeds from his heart ! * What 
else is this than the verdict of the conscience upon a form of religion 
beyond which it has passed? Thus it is perfectly evident that Jesus 
liberated his disciples' consciences equally with his own. The Apostle 
Paul was true to his spirit when he brought out the distinction and 
showed the radical opposition between the Law and the Gospel. Christ 
did not bring in new mysteries, new precepts ; he created a new state of 
soul. His revelation is not superimposed upon the conscience, like that 
of Moses ; it is realised in the conscience itself ; it is the conscience raised 
to a higher power of clear sight and energy. 

Whether it would or no the Church was forced to walk in the way 
he opened, and break with the letter of the Old Testament, under penalty 
of being unfaithful to the spirit of the New. In vain did it fall back 
upon allegory, typology, all the subtleties of scholasticism to veil the 
rupture and preserve intact the authority of the antiquated letter. 
Those only deceive themselves who still believe that such expedients sup- 
port the infallibility of Scripture. What, indeed, is this avowed neces- 
sity of allegorically interpreting the text, if not the tacit admission that 
the text in its true and historic sense has become foreign or hostile to 
the Christian consciousness? 


The Person of Jesus Christ; Its Authority 

Theke are those who will say, we admit, that the Old Testament revela- 
tion, being preparatory, cannot be of absolute authority for Christians ; 
but does not some such authority logically inhere in the revelation 
brought by Jesus Christ himself and by him declared to be definitive and 
perfect? Unless indeed his revelation is of such a nature as to exclude 
for itself, as it abrogates for all others, all external authority. 

It is certain that Jesus sovereignly conquers hearts. When by 
* Matt. xii. 1-12; Mark ii. 27, iii. 2-4; Luke vi. 9; Mark vii. 9-13; Matt. xv. 10-20. 


whatever means, a word or an act of healing, men get a glimpse of the 
treasure of life which he bears in himself, the most simple or the most 
learned. Rabbi Nicodemus or the Canaanite woman, is joined to him in 
a bond of love and confidence which nothing can break. This influence 
of the person of Jesus continues to be exerted by the intermediary of his 
discourses, and especially of his death upon the cross ; he conquers us 
by his spirit and at once becomes our Master, the freely elected Master 
of our souls. This is the primary meaning, the moral and religious 
meaning, of the word Kvptos, Lord. What is the nature of this sov- 
ereignty.'' In what sense is the person of Christ the object of the faith 
and love of Christians? 

The personal authority of Christ does not in the least degree coin- 
cide, nor can it be identified, with that of his discourses, considered ab- 
stractly as the expression of a doctrine; still less with the traditional 
historic form in which they have been preserved. His authority is not ^^ 
that of any letter whatsoever ; it arises from the outshining of the inner 
consciousness of Jesus, a radiation of holiness, of love, of the presence 
of God within him. The mysterious power which in his consciousness 
and by his word subjugates our souls and makes them his is the authority 
of God himself, it is the spirit of truth, of love, and of holiness. In this 
sense it must be said that so soon as this authority reveals itself to us 
we also feel it to be sovereign and absolute. This consciousness of Jesus 
realises and includes for us the spiritual and moral bond between the 
human soul and God, their absolute union, so that when this consciousness 
becomes ours we feel ourselves to be in the perfect religion, in normal 
and eternal relations with God. This is why we cannot separate our- 
selves from this consciousness of Christ, which is the essence and the 
religious dignity of his person. In the last analysis, and to go down 
to the very root of the Christian religion, to be a Christian is not to £^^ 
acquire a notion of God, or even an abstract doqtrine of his paternal 
love; it is to live over, within ourselves, the inner, spiritual life of 
Christ, and by the union of our heart with his to feel in ourselves the 


presence of a Father and the reality of our filial relation to him, just as 
Christ felt in himself the Father's presence and his filial relation to 
him. It is not a question of a new teaching, but of a transformed con- 
sciousness. Christ is far more than the highest authority in Christian- 
ity ; he is Christianity itself. 

The true and ultimate object of faith in Jesus Christ is therefore 
not the man Jesus, but the revelation of the Father which is in him. 
Jesusolatry, that is, the separate worship of the man Jesus, is, so far 
as the Christian religion is concerned, as truly an idolatry as the adora- 
tion of the Virgin and the saints. It is as repugnant to Protestant 
piety in its deep instinctive tendency as to the primitive gospel Jesus 
never claimed worship for himself. 

To maintain in all its plenitude the autliority c/f Christ it is there- 
fore important not to displace its seat, its true centre. It is sovereign 
and absolute, as that of God himself, in the domain of the religious 
S experience to which by its own action it gives rise in us. This experience 
is threefold: the experience of our deliverance from evil, of our filial 
union with the Father, and of our entrance into eternal life. All these 
were in the consciousness of Christ, and by our spiritual communion with 
him they pass into our own as an actual, living reality. But to extend 
the authority of Christ beyond this domain to things of another order 
and unrelated to it, to the body of general and traditional notions in 
which his mind was trained and which he shared with all his contempo- 
raries, notions cosmographical, historical, and literary, demonology, 
possession, apocalyptic hopes, — this is to pervert the gospel, to put it 
into conflict with science and with criticism, to impute to Jesus purposes 
and pretensions which he never claimed, — in a word, to destroy his 
authority under the pretext of making it absolute. The religious and 
moral content of his consciousness may be recognised by this test : that 
it is perfectly assimilable by our own. The authority of Christ over us 
is perfect in the precise degree in which this assimilation has taken place. 
And thus, having first been a historic fact, it becomes an inward spir- 


itual and moral power, acting upon the conscience as the ideal acts, and 
thus universally felt to be of imperative obligation and invincible 

For himself, therefore, no less than for his disciples, Jesus repudiated 
all claim to external authority, and in return external authority, acting 
through tradition and the Jewish hierarchy, condemned him. For him 
that notion of an infallible outward authority, on which the scribes 
and Pharisees founded their religious system, simply did not exist. His 
gospel fundamentally disallowed it. In fact, where is the usefulness 
of oracular authority, when the question is not of imposing a belief or 
a line of conduct as necessary to salvation, but of relating salvation to 
the moral acts of trust, repentance, consecration to God.? An entirely 
different sort of authority is needed in this case, the authority of holiness 
and love. With this authority Jesus was endowed, and he wills that 
his disciples shall also be clothed in it. This is not the authority of the 
letter, but of the Spirit. Paul meant nothing else when, comparing the 
two Covenants and the kind of authority exercised by each, he wrote: 
" The Lord is the Spirit. And where the Spirit of the Lord is, there 
is liberty." ^ j 


The Nature of the Gospel 

No one denies that the personal religion of Christ was all of inspiration 
without exterior yoke; but it is added that such a religion can never 
be that of sinful men. The estate of sin into which they have fallen 
renders indispensable the discipline of a divinely ordered institution or t^ 
code. Such an argument is fundamentally irrational. I do not deny 
that those external authorities which in the older religions oppressed the 
human conscience had their first cause in man's sinful state. But what 
is the gospel, and what is its purpose, if not to bring about the blotting 

' 2 Cor. iii. 17. Bengel, " Conversio fit ad Dominum ut Spiritum " (The authority 
of the Lord is that of the Spirit himself). 


out of sin and the redemption of the sinner? How then can it find room 
and sanction for the authorities of former rehgions, when it does away 
with the very reason for their existence? Let us rather admit that 
the gospel is in itself the destruction of all servitudes, as well of legal 
and sacerdotal servitudes as of servitude of sin. When one is abolished 
all the others fall, as a matter of necessity. Paul admirably sets this 
forth in his figure of the prison in which sinful men are shut up, and of 
the i ailer who keeps them in ward. When the prison is opened the func- 
tions of the jailer cease. 

We must here anticipate the misapprehension by which certain mys- 
tical anarchists ^ have drawn the conclusion that every social organisa- 
tion and hierarchy has been abolished. There is no incompatibility 
between the nature of Christ's gospel and the existence of human insti- 
tutions of relative value, justified and limited by the very services they 
render, such as the authority of the father, and of teachers of various 
degrees, in the upbringing of children, or such as that of apostles and 
evangelists who preach Christ's word, or of ecclesiastical and civil 
authorities regularly constituted with a view to the maintenance of order 
in the Church or the State. All these organisations are founded upon 
the duty of the strong to come to the aid of the weak. But such are 
purely auxiliary forces. They become contrary to the gospel when, 
being human, they take upon themselves divine attributes and by virtue 
of these attributes substitute themselves for the authority of God, and 
assume to be mediators between God and the human soul; whether 
a sacerdotal institution claiming to be divine, or a human letter giving 
itself out as the objective word of God. Mediations of such a kind be- 
come in fact obstacles and barriers which interrupt the direct communion 
between the Father and his child. What else than idols are human insti- 
tutions, whether Church or book, when thus held to be divine? ^ 

The essential characteristic of the gospel of Christ, that by which it 
« marks a new epoch in the religious and moral development of humanity, 
' Tolstoy, for example. ' 1 Cor. iii. 21-23. 


is that it has made things that were formerly essential and of principal 
importance — priesthood, rite, exterior law — to be accessories ; and on the 
other hand has raised those which were formerly derived and subordinate 
— heart piety and relations with God — to be things of final and capital 
importance, the very essence of rehgion. Thus the religious world has 
been reversed; all its relations have been inverted because its centre of 
gravity has been displaced. Never in all human history was there a 
more radical revolution and change. 

In the consciousness of Christ the relation of man with God, the 
very principle of religion, — piety, — was determined entirely anew. There 
was nothing exterior in the bond between his consciousness and God. 
Wholly interior and moral, it was bom of a profound sense of unity 
and love, like that which links the father and the child. The God who 
is in heaven revealed himself in the heart of Jesus as his Father; Jesus 
felt himself to be living in God as his Son. And we find in almost every 
word he uttered the proof that he proposed to create the same filial 
relation between his disciples and God, that this should be the distinctive 
mark and essential content of that piety with which he bent every effort 
to inspire them. 

It is a mistake to think that Jesus introduced a new doctrine of God, 
his essence and attributes, and of the intra-divine life. His notion of 
God is that of the Old Testament. Even the idea of God as the Father 
is not new. The new thing here is the inward attitude. In the con- 
sciousness of Christ the God of Moses and the prophets reveals himself 
as in a new relation to human consciousness. This new relation, ex- 
pressed by the word Father, is the principle and essence of the gospel 
revelation, which it would be better to call a creation. This is why on 
the lips of Jesus the word Father, already known, becomes the proper 
name of God. Jesus never invokes God by any other name : " Father, 
my Father." * But in this intimate and familiar association there is not 
a shadow of metaphysical monopoly or exclusive religious egotism. 
^Mark xiv. 36; Matt. x. 32, xi. 27, xviii. 19, 35, etc. 


When he revealed himself to Jesus as Father, God revealed himself as^such 
to men in general. The love of the Father is bestowed upon all his 
children without a single exception, and if there is any preference it is in 
favour of the most insignificant, the poorest, the most fallen, the most 
orphaned.^ Paternal love thus becomes the highest characteristic of the 
relations of God with men. So Christ teaches his disciples to pray as he 
does, to put themselves into the same filial relation with God, saying to 
him, " Our Father." So, too, in speaking to his disciples of God he 
more often says " your Father," or " our Father " than " my Father." 
They too must become the " children of the Father." And they will 
become such by learning to love as he does, without condition or reserve.'^ 
To the Apostle Paul the Christian's distinctive and specific invocation 
was " Abba ! Father ! " which was that of Christ.^ In short, the perfect 
revelation is in the perfection of piety. We are Christians just so far 
as the personal piety of Jesus, the sense of divine sonship, is reproduced 
in us. 

In this sort of piety is there any place for the duty of submission to 
the injunctions of any exterior authority soever? 

What guide, what support, what strength did Jesus give to his 
disciples? Not one other than the Spirit of his Father, which abode in 
him and would abide in them. He promised it without a single exception 
to all who would ask the T'other for It. He is the Spirit of the Father, 
and consequently a spirit of love, of holiness, of self-renunciation, of 
devotion to others. He should be the soul of their soul, the principle 
of their conduct, their guide and counsellor on their way through an 
inimical world. On solemn occasions he will suggest to them what they 
ought to say. He is the best gift which the Father can give to his chil- 
dren, a better bread than that which we give to our own. He is the 
permanent inward bond which unites the children to the Father and 
to one another, so forming an eternal family.* 

> Matt. V. 45-48, vi. 1-8, x. 29, xxiii. 9 ; Mark xi. 25, etc. * Matt. v. 9, 45. 

* Rom. viii. 14-17; Gal. iv, 1-7, iv. 21-v. 1 ; John viii. 35, etc. 

*Luke xi. 13; Matt. vii. 7-11, x. 20; Luke xxiv. 49; John xiv. 26, xv. 26, etc. 


Jesus Christ promised his disciples the help and guidance of the 
Spirit of God, in all circumstances, for all their needs, and in all that 
they should have to do or to suffer, but in no sense to constitute a new 
Scriptural code to which Christians would thenceforth be forever en- 
slaved. How, then, came it to pass that the Cliurch learned to distrust 
the Master's promise, and hastened to build up again that which he 
destroyed — the absolute authority of the so-called divine letter? 

The Church was incredulous, and it still is so as regards the doctrine 
of the Holy Spirit. She has limited inspiration to bishops, the hier- 
archy, the Pope, or else to the authors whose writings are collected be- 
tween the covers of the New Testament, and has denied it to ordinary 
Christians ; and for them she has created a ^ew authority, thus depriving 
them of the liberty which Christ conquered for every son of the Father. 

The dogma which made the Holy Spirit a metaphysical entity 
paralysed and killed his dynamic influence in the Christian life. In the j^^ 
Old Testament and the New the Spirit represented the divine principle 
in the human soul, the immanent influence of the living God. Elevated 
into the empyrean of the Trinity it has become transcendent, not less 
apart from the world than the two other divine persons, and thus it too 
has need of a mediating organ by which to be revealed and made active ; 
it has become incarnate and therefore localised either in the Catholic 
hierarchy or in the code of Scripture. Nothing could be farther from 
the thought or the promise of Jesus. 

At the same time those Christians who claimed to be directly guided 
by the Spirit came to be held in suspicion. There was a disquieting 
mysticism about them. The Spirit could be permitted to act or to mani- 
fest himself only in legal and official ways. Having become a transcend- 
ent force, he appeared to be an undetermined principle. Those who 
invoked him as a shield for fanaticism were victims of delusion or at best 
they identified him with their own imaginings. The teaching of the 
Gospels is absolutely the contrary. It Is impossible to conceive of a 
power historically more clearly defined than the Spirit which Jesus prom- 


ised to his disciples. It is the Spirit of the Father, which was in himself, 
manifesting itself as a spirit of truth, of moral sincerity, of perfect 
justice and unreserved love for fellow men. To two of his disciples who 
> desired to call down fire from heaven upon a village which was unwilling 
to receive their Master, Jesus declared that they did not know the manner 
of spirit which animated them. To the Pharisees who confused his spirit 
with that of Beelzebub he spoke of an unpardonable sin against the Holy 
Spirit. The Fourth Gospel, embodying the idea if not the words of 
his teaching, declares that the Spirit which the disciples of Jesus were 
to receive would be his Spirit, another himself, that is, the inspiration of 
all his words and of his whole life. By this Spirit Christ is focever 
present with his followers.^ 

Those who claim to speak in the name of the Holy Spirit may judge 
of the Christian character of their inspiration by its conformity with 
that of Christ. The true children of the Father are those who are led 
by the very Spirit of him in whom the Father is revealed. Thus there 
is nothing more specifically determined than that which is called the 
Spirit of God, manifested in Jesus Christ. Far from separating from 
Christ those who are truly imbued with and animated by it, far from 
giving them over to all sorts of chimeras, the Spirit forever attracts 
us to Christ, makes him live again in each Christian, rescues him from 
all that is imperfect and contingent in history, and makes him eternally 
present in consciousness. 

The Spirit of Christ gives us to recognise the words of Christ as 
words of religious and moral truth, and therefore obligatory, and in 
their turn his words enable us to distinguish the true inspiration of 
Christ in all the successive and various religious manifestations that call 
themselves by his name. This is not a vicious circle; it is the circle of 
life, in which the religious consciousness awakes and is developed. 

Christ was not only the prophet of the religion of the Spirit, he 
introduced it into the world and forever remains its Master. 
' John xiv. 16-20, xv. 26, xvi. 13-15. 




The Fulfilment of the Messianic Promise 

In his noblest page Jeremiah thus prophesied: " The Word of Jehovah: 
behold the days come that I will make a new covenant with the house of 
Israel and with the house of Judah ; not according to the covenant that 
I niade with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to 
bring them out of the land of Egypt, which my covenant they broke, 
although I was a husband to them, saith Jehovah. But this is the cov- 
enant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith 
Jehovah ; I will put my law in their Inward parts and in their heart will 
I write it, and I will be their God and they shall be my people." ^ It 
would be impossible more accurately to characterise the new covenant 
forever established between God and man in the consciousness of Jesus 
Christ. The divine law transferred from Sinai's tables of stone to tables 
of the heart, put into organic relations with the human conscience, so 
incorporating itself with it as henceforth to be identical with it; the 
heteronomy of the former time becoming autonomy, the moral ideal ceas- 
ing to be a commandment of despair and menace ; the holiness of Jehovah 
reappearing in more august form as the love of the heavenly Father; 
the child's faith and trust becoming an inward light, an inward power, 
which renews the soul from within, exalting its energies and sanctifying 
the whole of life — this is the new gospel, the religion of the Spirit. 

This is the character and this the aspect in which apostolic Chris- 
tianity is shown in the New Testament, from its first page to its last.^ 

^ Jer. xxxi. 31-33. 

' The very expression, " New Testament, new covenant," Kaiv')] SiaOrjKij, is taken 
from the passage in Jeremiah which is especially considered by Paul, 2 Cor. iii. 6. 



The Christian life is there represented, not as obedience and submission 
to an external authority, but as the product of an inspiration, as the 
very creation of the Spirit of God or of Christ shed abroad in the hearts 
of believers/ Thenceforth the3^ have in themselves the motive force and 
the rule of their thought and life. 

We need be neither disconcerted nor distressed by the fantastic and 
sometimes morbid forms which Christianity took on in the early days 
of fervent enthusiasm. Uneducated and without the critical sense, the 
early Christians often prized the manifestations of the Spirit in pro- 
portion to their singularity. But among the charisms or gifts of the 
Spirit the Apostle Paul placed that which he called the gift of the dis- 
cernment of the relative value of special inspirations, and while he coun- 
selled the Thessalonian Christians to " quench not the Spirit," he failed 
not to offer a judicious and profound criticism of those charisms which 
were most alluring and most pleasing to the popular taste ; he established 
a strict gradation among these sometimes tumultuous manifestations, 
from the gift of tongues, which he put in the lowest rank, up to faith, 
hope, and that divine gift which he ranked above all the others, dis- 
interested, patient, devoted love, without which all the rest is nothing. 
He always traces inspiration back to the normal imitation of Christ as 
its essential and regulating principle. They who are not animated by 
the Spirit of Christ are none of his.^ 

Thus the New Testament attests the universality of the gift of the 
Spirit, and maintains the privilege of all Christians, at all times and 
without exception, to share in it. By this fact it becomes the inalienable 
warrant of the spirituality of the gospel, and merits the name we give 
it, the charter of the religion of the Spirit. It is worth while to make 
this clearly evident. 

The Book of Acts records the earliest fulfilment of the Messianic 

promise. In the effusion of the Spirit upon the entire community of 

'John iii. 5-8; Rom. viii. 14, etc. 

'1 Cor. xii. 10: 5idKpL(TLS -rrvtvix&Tov. 1 Thess. V. 19, '20'.Thirve\)ixafi^<T^€vvort,irpo4>f)T€lai 
/X7J iiovdevure, vdvra di SoKi/xd^ere. Rom. viu. 9; 1 Cor. xii., xiii., xiv. Cf. 1 John iv. 1. 


the disciples assembled at Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost, Luke recog- 
nised the distinctive token of the new time. No doubt the memory of the 
event had become blurred in the somewhat late tradition recovered by 
Luke. It is indeed an unintelligent misapprehension by which he 
changes the mystical and psychical phenomenon of glossolalia (flow of 
incoherent and often unintelligible words) which Paul well describes and 
judges in his first letter to the Corinthians, into a miraculous gift of 
speaking foreign languages. Yet the historic reality shines through 
the mists of legend. The mere fact that the inhabitants of Jerusalem 
who witnessed these extraordinary ebullitions of the disciples took them 
for drunken men proves that the phenomenon was of the same nature as 
that which took place in Corinth twenty years later, when the " glos- 
solalists " were believed to be insane. Notwithstanding which, Luke's 
narrative leaves no room for doubt that this was a Messianic miracle, 
the miracle of inspiration bestowed at a given moment upon the whole 
body of this first Christian assembly. 

Such is the meaning of Peter's discourse. He .begins by setting 
aside the accusation of drunkenness with the remark that it was still 
early in the day. But he might quite as well have accepted it in a 
favourable sense, and made use of it as a speaking image. Yes, these 
men were intoxicated — with enthusiasm, with faith, hope, joy. The 
sweet wine of the new vintage had suddenly gone to their heads. They 
had lost their present timidity, and with it, temporarily, the equilibrium 
of their mental faculties; they had become prophets, nabis, in the an- 
cient sense of the word. Each, according to his gifts and the relation 
of his feelings to his physical force, was expressing by shout and ges- 
ture, by song and broken quotations of Scripture, perhaps by dance 
and other postures, and celebrating as best he could the " wonderful 
works " of God. 

Peter explains these prodigies by recalling the Messianic prophecy 
of Joel : " And it shall be in the last days, saith God, I will pour forth 
of my Spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall 


prophesy." Thus the difference between the old and the new covenants 
is strongly marked, the difference between the age of the Law and that 
of the Messiah. The advent of the latter was announced by a general 
outpouring of the Spirit. The new nation was to be a nation of 
prophets. That which had been the privilege of a few has become the 
right of all. This is the universal inspiration of Christians.^ 

Another passage in the Book of Acts shows still more clearly that 
men become true and complete Christians only by experiencing the gift 
of the Spirit. There were at Ephesus certain disciples who had never 
heard of such a gift, nor even of the fact of the Spirit ; they had received 
only the baptism of John. Paul baptised them into the name of the 
Lord Jesus, and immediately the Spirit fell upon them with all the 
extraordinary signs of his presence.^ 

A third incident of this first period of the history of the Christian 
Church is no less significant. Philip had evangelised Samaria with 
extraordinary success. Men and women had come to him for baptism. 
But, says the narrator, the Holy Spirit had not yet fallen upon them. 
The apostles in Jerusalem did not consider such a conversion as com- 
plete, even when it had been accompanied by baptism with water into 
the name of Jesus. That it might become so, they dispatched thither 
Peter and John, who prayed for these converts and laid their hands upon 
them, whereupon they received the Spirit.^ 

Precisely the opposite took place with Cornelius, the pious cen- 
turion. During the preaching of Peter, and under the influence of his 
words, the Spirit fell upon all his hearers, who began to speak in tongues 
and glorify God as the first disciples had done on the day of Pentecost. 
And Peter cried, " Can any man forbid the water, that these should not 
be baptised who have received the Holy Spirit as well as we? " * 

Is not this the place for recalling to mind the contrast which John 
the Baptist himself established between his baptism and the Messianic 
baptism of the new era: " I baptise you in water . . . but the one 

* Acts u. 1-20. » lb., xix. 1-7. « Acts viii. 12-17. * lb., x. 44-48. 


that Cometh after me is mightier than I; he shall baptise you with the 
Spirit and with fire." ^ The Spirit symbolised by fire is the power 
which is to renew the hearts of men. 

The Church and theology have singularly fallen from this high 
position. Having reduced inspiration to the theory of intellectual in- 
fallibility, they have separated it from the Christian life, and have for- 
gotten that the gift of the regenerating and enlightening Spirit is 
organically connected with the living faith of all Christians. Thus they 
have opened a chasm between the apostles, considered as endowed with 
an absolute and exceptional privilege, and all other believers, whom they 
thus deprive of that which Jesus and his disciples showed to be the char- 
acteristic of the new covenant, and thus relegate to the yoke of author- 
ity, as under the old covenant. In the beginning all the believers felt 
themselves to be inspired. It was the sign of their emancipation and 
their guaranty of liberty as children of God. Christendom must get 
back to the religion of the Spirit if it is not to lose its title of nobility 
and the image of its first ideal. 


The Pcmlmian Notion of Inspiration 

In the early days Christian inspiration gushed forth tumultuous and 
disturbing; it became clarified in Paul's Epistles. The apostle worked 
out a new and profound theory of the fact; he brought to light its 
essentially ethical principle, to which he clearly and vigorously subor- 
dinated all those external, marvellous, often morbid and dangerous forms 
which it might assume. 

The idea of the Spirit is more than an important element in Paul's 
theology; it is the soul of the doctrine, the binding principle which 
makes all its parts coherent, from the idea of God who is Spirit, and 
Christ who is the Spirit manifested and active in the world, to that 
regeneration which is the fruit of the Spirit, and eternal life which is the 

»Matt. iii. 11. 


life of the Spirit/ Or to express it in other terms, it is a higher form 
of being, a specific category of thought, fixing the point of view from 
which the apostle carries on all his meditations and reasonings, co-ordi- 
nates and logically develops his entire conception of Christianity. The 
dominant feature of his dogmatic is to think or to know " according 
to the Spirit" (/cara 7rvev/u.u); his entire morality is to walk "in the 
Spirit " ; and the whole forms a theology of the Spirit, a <To^ia TrvtvimriKri, 
which in his eyes is " the perfect wisdom." ^ 

What then is the Spirit in the thought of Paul? It is with him 
a hereditary notion ; he received it from the Old Testament, and though 
he developed it, he did so in strict fidelity to the Old Testament. To 
the prophets the Spirit represented the activity and power of God in the 
world and in the human heart ; it was God himself giving life, revealing 
himself, acting, directing, profoundly influencing all his creatures. In 
short, if God, in himself considered, is the divine being in power, apart 
from all manifestation of himself, the Spirit of God is God in act, 
God manifested. Thus for the Apostle Paul the Spirit is the divine 
energy ( Swa/itis ) which, especially in the religious order, is light and 
life. The Spirit which acted intermittently upon the prophets is in 
some way individualised in the person of Christ, so that the apostle could 
say " The Lord is the Spirit," and that to receive Christ and be united 
to him by faith Is at the same time to receive the Spirit as the immanent 
principle of a new life.' 

The organic connection between faith and the gift of the Spirit 
must be before all else emphasised. One can no more exist without the 
other than form can exist without substance, or cause without effect. 
It may even be said that in the initial phenomenon of conversion there 
is but a single and identical psychological process, which on the side of 
man is an act of faith, on the side of God the gift of the Spirit. " To 

* 1 Cor. ii. 10-16; 9 Cor. iii. 6, 17; Gal. iii. 3-5, v. 22-25; 1 Cor. xii. 1-13; 2 Cor. i. 22, 
V. 5; Rom. viii. 2-11 ; 2 Cor. iii. 17, 18. 

'2 Cor. V. 16; Rom. viii. 1-11; Gal. v. 16; 1 Cor. xii. 1-11, ii. 4-13, etc. 
'Gal. iii. 2, 5; Rom. v. 5; Gal. iii. 14; Eph. i. 13. 


believe in Christ," " to be in Christ," " the life of Christ in us," and 
" to receive the Spirit," are synonymous, or at least religiously equiva- 
lent expressions, A Christian, then, is a man who, having believed the 
gospel, has by that act received into himself the Spirit of Christ as a 
life principle, the permanent inspiration of his thoughts and acts. 

It is not enough to represent the Spirit of God as coming to the 
help of man's spirit, supplying strength which he lacks, an associate or 
juxtaposed force, a supernatural auxiliary. Paul's thought has no 
room for such a moral and psychological dualism, although popular 
language easily permits it. His thought is quite otherwise profound. 
There is no simple addition of divine power and human power in the 
Christian life. The Spirit of God identifies itself with the human Me 
into which it enters and whose life it becomes. If we may so speak, 
it is individualised in the new moral personality which it creates. A 
sort of metamorphosis, a transubstantiation, if the word may be per- 
mitted, takes place in the human being.^ Having been carnal, it has 
become spiritual. A " new man " arises from the old man by the 
creative act of the Spirit of God. Hence the strong antitheses by which 
the Paulinian ethic expresses the passage from the life of the flesh to 
that of the Spirit. Paul calls Christians irvcvixariKoi, properly speak- 
ing, " the inspired." They are moved and guided by the Spirit of 
God. The Spirit of God dwells in them as an immanent virtue, whose 
fruits are as organically developed as those of the flesh. Supernatural 
gifts become natural, or rather, at this mystical height, the antithesis 
created by scholastic rationalism becomes meaningless and is oblit- 

This action of the Spirit, being essentially moral and regenerating, 
is felt by all the faculties of soul and body, by the intelligence as much 
as by the will. It opens the understanding as well as the heart, its 
warmth becomes also light. The Spirit reveals to the regenerated be- 

1 Appendix LXXXVIII. 

» 1 Cor. ii. 13, iii. 3; Rom. vii. 12-15, vi. 6; Eph. iv. 23, 24; Col. ui. 9, etc. 


liever such things as the carnal man could never have understood.^ Not 
that this new knowledge is miraculously perfect and entire from the 
very beginning. As to tliis, the apostle positively affirms the con- 
trary. The Christian's religious knowledge remains always partial and 
progressive."^ There is nothing in the illuminating influence of the 
Spirit at all resembling the scholastic miracle of theopneusty. All is 
organic, interrelated, above all, moral. There is nothing in conmion 
with the mantic art of the ancients. Great thoughts spring from faith 
in the same way as all other virtues, sanctification, missionary zeal, 
charity. Inspiration is in the essence of faith. All Christians have 
their part in it ; it is a sign by which they are to be recognised. With- 
out it one is not a Christian. He who has not received the Spirit of 
Christ is none of his. No one confesses the Lordship of Jesus, except 
by the Holy Spirit.** 

This state of inspiration as a common and permanent privilege, this 
transference of the principle and motive of the religious life from the 
exterior domain of institutions to the conscience, is the vital point of 
the Paulinian antithesis between the Old and the New Covenants, between 
the religion of the Letter and the religion of the Spirit. The first made 
only trembling slaves ; the second makes full-grown men, free men, and 
« sons of God."* 

Paul explains with peculiar satisfaction the principle and the char- 
acter of the enfranchisement thus wrought. Where the Spirit of Christ 
is, there is liberty. The man of the Spirit ( Trvev/AariKos ) has a norm 
of more exalted character than other men, in the Spirit that abides 
within him. He judges all things and is judged by no man. Hagar 
the slave, symbol of the Mosaic law, brought forth children for servi- 
tude ; Sarah the wife, representing the evangelical dispensation, brings 

M Cor. ii, 9, 10. Cf. Matt. xiii. 11. ^AppenJix LXXXIX. 

'1 Cor. xii. 4-11; Rom. viii. 9-14; 1 Cor. xii. 3, etc. The passage from the old 
religion to the new was the passage from the law and the flesh to faith and the Spirit, 
Gal. iii. 1-5. 

* Appendix XC. 


forth the children of liberty. " Stand forth, therefore, in the liberty 
wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with 
the yoke of bondage." ^ 

But the Spirit of God or of Christ, which is an inward principle of 
liberty, is not a mere formal and empty principle. It is not only 
liberty, but love and holiness. It sanctifies the will and makes it ready 
to be sacrificed, to devote self without reserve or reckoning to the good 
of others. Thus it fulfils the substantial justice of the moral law, for 
love alone fulfils the law; the whole law is summed up in the precept. 
" Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself," so that the abolition of 
the old order is in reality the accomplishment of the divine intention for 
which it was established.^ 


The J ohannean Doctrine of Inspiration 

Coming fifty years later than the Synoptic writings, the Johannean 
conception of inspiration is still more free from accidental, miraculous, 
or morbid forms ; but its principle and purpose are the same — the 
autonomy of the Christian conscience. 

Paul said, " The Lord is the Spirit." John said, " The Lord is the 
Word made flesh." ^ The two formulae belong to two entirely different 
circles of ideas ; but they are religiously equivalent. The revelation 
or communication of God by the Word is fundamentally identical with 
the revelation or communication of him by the Spirit. The Word is life 
and light; it comes into the world as the principle of light and life. 
Incarnated in Jesus, he came unto his own, who received him not, but 
to such as received him, he gave the right and the faculty to become 
" children of God," because they are bom of God.* 

In like manner as the Spirit expresses the divine, universal, and 

^ 1 Cor. ii. 14, 15; Gal. iv. 21, v. 1. ' Gal. v. 13, vi. 10; Rom. iii. 31. 

"John i. 14. *John i. 1-12. 


eternal basis of the historic person of Jesus, so the substance of the 
incarnate Word is light and life. Therefore both it and the Spirit 
should be and may be assimilated by believers, thus becoming the sub- 
stance of their new personality. The incarnate Logos is the bread of 
life ; he has come down from heaven ; he offers himself to be eaten as the 
divine food which gives eternal life to the soul. This is why in the 
Fourth Gospel Jesus says and repeatedly insists, in the most paradoxical 
of symbolisms, " my flesh is food, my blood is drink ; he who eats my flesh 
and drinks my blood has life in himself." All this is admirably clear, 
and at bottom perfectly simple. The Logos or word of God which is 
in Jesus ought in the same way to become the very nature of the be- 
lievers. He desires to dwell in them in a permanent way, and they ought 
to dwell in him, that they may walk in the light, and have eternal life, 
from the moment that now is." 

With a wealth of more or less transparent imagery the author of the 
Fourth Gospel develops this central thesis of his theology. It would 
seem as if the action of the Word thus understood must render that of 
the Spirit superfluous, and it must indeed be avowed that it is impossible 
to diff^erentiate them substantially from one another. John obeys the 
same spiritual necessity which controlled the Apostle Paul, who continu- 
ally speaks concurrently of the work of Christ in us, and of that of the 
Holy Spirit, which, however, are identical. It is pretty hard to say 
how our author conceived of the relations between the Word and the 
Spirit ; but it is clear that the Spirit perpetuates in the world the Word 
which was incarnate in the historic Christ, particularly the subjective 
action of the Word in the soul, moving it to faith and operating in it 
the birth from above. This subjective influence develops the new life 
in the soul, and remains continually present in it as the fountain of 
revelation, consolation, and comfort, all that is signified by the untrans- 
latable word Paraclete. The Word made man could not always continue 
in the world. He brought to it life and light, and this innermost sub- 
stance of the Word was to remain in the bosom of humanity after the 

* Appendix XCI. 


historic form under which it had appeared had ceased to exist. From 
having been local and visible in its first manifestation, the Word thus 
became a universal principle, invisible, interior to the Christian con- 
sciousness. Jesus died ; but his Spirit remained among his own, replac- 
ing him, or rather, making him more truly present, more active, more 
powerful, than he had ever been in the days of his flesh.^ This is the 
profound meaning of that enigmatic and almost shocking expression to 
which the Evangelist gives utterance with regard to the promise of the 
Spirit made by Jesus to believers : " For the Spirit was not yet, because 
Jesus had not yet been glorified." ^ The Paraclete could not come so 
long as Jesus was not gone away. The symbolical act of the Risen 
Christ, breathing upon his disciples at the moment of quitting them, and 
saying, " Receive ye the Holy Spirit," has no other meaning.' 

From this dual idea of the Word and the Spirit flows that of the free 
and permanent inspiration of the Christian. To be a Christian is to 
be born from above, that is to say, to be born of the Spirit; it is not 
only to drink of the living water of Christ's words, but to have in one's 
self a continually upsp ringing fountain of inspiration and strength ; * 
to have the Spirit, not intermittently in one's happier moments, but 
always, continually, as an ever indwelling consciousness. " You know 
him," says Jesus, " because he dwells with you and is in you. He will 
henceforth teach you all things, will recall to your minds and explain 
to you all things that I have told you. He is the Spirit of truth, who 
comes from the Father. I have yet many things to say to you, but you 
could not understand them. The Spirit will lead you into all truth." * 

How better can it be explained that the Christian revelation is not 
a book closed and put away ; that it is always open and fluid ; that to shut 
it up in a stereotyped letter, like that of the Mosaic law, is to misappre- 
hend it, to fall from the height on which Christ sought to place his fol- 

* John xvi. 7, 12, 14, 21 ; xiv. 12, etc. 

» John vii. 38, 39. [The word " given " is not in the Greek, nor is it supplied in the 
best French translations. — Trans.] 

« John XX. 22. * John vii. 38. • John xiv., xv., xvi 


lowers; that in fact, this highest revelation is found not in a sort of 
summa of doctrines once for all formulated and codified, but in the 
immanence and continuity of a revelatory principle in the Christian 
soul ; not in a book, but in the Spirit which inspires the writing of books, 
and bears witness in us to the worth and the truth of the books them- 


The Idea of the Universal Priesthood 

In no other New Testament writings do we find so profound a con- 
ception of Christian inspiration as in those of Paul and John, but none 
of them lack indications revealing a state of consciousness such as has 
just been described. 

Thus the Epistle of James shows the still elementary organisation 
of the earliest Christian communities. The religious services, the min- 
istry of the word and of confession, which later became the monopoly 
of a clergy, are at this period carried on by all members of the Church 
according to their individual gifts. The author deprecates their tend- 
ency to immoderate zeal, exhorting them to be slow to speak and not 
court the authority of teacher. Like Paul, and with the same meaning, 
he calls the gospel " the perfect law of liberty." ^ 

The First Epistle of Peter gives much more explicit instruction, 

more nearly resembling that of Paul, to whose powerful influence it 

bears witness. Christians are the regenerated, and the Holy Spirit rests 

upon them, filling them with hope and joy in the midst of tribulations.* 

But a still more interesting idea emerges from these brief pages. Not 

only are Christians the living stones of the new building, they are also 

a royal priesthood.' In the almost identical terms of the Revelation, 

Christ has made them " kings and priests " for Grod his Father. Here, 

therefore, the idea of a universal priesthood is joined to that of uni- 

^ Jas. iii. 1, V. 16, i. 25. 

' 1 Peter i. 2, 3; iv. 14: rh toO 6eov vvevfut k<j>' iiias drairaiJerot. 

•/6. ii. 6-9; Rev. i. 6, v. 10; Rom. xii. 1. 


versai inspiration. In the Old Covenant three classes of persons — kings, 
prophets, and priests — were exalted above the people, to govern, to 
reveal the will of God, and to serve as intermediaries or official mediators 
between them and God. In the New Covenant the elect people, the holy 
nation as a whole, and with no sort of distinction, is raised to this triple 
dignity by the Holy Spirit, who thenceforth abides in them. Chris- 
tians are all at once and individually prophets, priests, and kings. But 
when every man is king, clearly no man is subject; where everyone is his 
own prophet and priest there can be no exterior authority to bind the 
conscience in spite of itself. Monarchy and oligarchy with their grada- 
tions in rank have given place to a religious democracy, to the republic 
of fraternal souls, to the fundamental equality of citizens in the King- 
dom of God. 

The First Gospel narrates how at the very moment when Jesus 
yielded up his spirit the veil of the temple was rent from top to bottom.* 
This legend has a profound significance, which the Epistle to the He- 
brews well interprets. The veil of the temple was a curtain which shut 
off the Most Holy Place, and behind it none might pass. By the death 
of Christ that barrier was done away, and the Holy of Holies in which 
God abide- was made accessible to all believers. By such figures Jewish 
Christian thought expressed essentially the same thought which from his 
point of view Paul clothed in more mystical expressions, such as filial 
adoption, peace made with God, the abolition of the law, dying and 
rising again with Christ. Everywhere and in all cases we find an intense 
feeling that the old economy of fear and servitude has been done away 
and has given place to the economy of liberty, love, and joy. 


The Tradition of the Religion of the Spirit 

The religion of the external authority of rites and institutions has 
in the Catholic Church a tradition greatly enriched and strengthened by 
»Matt xxvii. 51. C/. Heb. x. 19, 20. 


age ; but the religion of the Spirit is not without a tradition of its own. 
It flows beneath the other, an invisible subterranean stream of thought 
and Hfe gushing up intermittently through breaches that become 
larger with the advancing years. There is a never-ceasing struggle 
between the two traditions as between their principles, and this con- 
flict it is which makes the religious interest of the drama of Church 

As early as the second century it was evident that the Christian 
body was growing inwardly cold, while outwardly increasing in numbers 
and influence. In proportion as the spiritual and moral bonds grew 
slack which at first sufficed to keep the body united, it became necessary to 
strengthen them by proportionate exterior bonds, the authority of the 
political institution and of the sacramental rite. Little by little the word 
of God yielded place to the word of the bishop, for heart faith was substi- 
tuted the rule of faith, for repentance and piety the sacrament, legal 
discipline for fraternal love and obedience for inspiration. The estab- 
lished order was held to be the divine order ; those became more and more 
rare who held aloof from it by reason of independence or of fidelity to 
their ideal ; they were either fantastic spirits like the author of the 
" Shepherd of Hermas," or ranters like the prophets of Montanism, 
whom the Church condemned as heretics. Henceforth in the Catholic 
system individual inspiration, the self-assertion of the conscience, became 
the worst of heresies, being the mother of almost all the others. 

It would be to show equal ignorance and injustice to indulge in sur- 
prise at the strange and unwholesome forms which Christian inspiration 
took on in the course of centuries, sometimes even bordering upon men- 
tal alienation, and to hold them up as the sufficient argument against 
inspiration. Religious madmen are made indeed by isolation, persecu- 
tions, and imprisonment. The dragoons of Louis XIV made the 
prophets of the Cevennes. Under the oppression of a tyrannical 
authority all forms of the religious life become changed, imaginations 
are stimulated, and minds become unsettled. The best way to restore 


calmness to disquieted souls and to bring their personal inspirations 
within the bounds of reason is to establish freedom in the common life. 

While the Catholic Church was organising its formidable system of 
authority the religion of the Spirit took refuge below the surface, and 
maintained its existence in the inner life of humble and pious souls, and 
in the travail of thought of a few elect spirits. For example, we find 
it burning in the inspired letter of the Christians of Lyons and Vienne 
to the Churches of Asia, which we read in Eusebius. We find it again 
in a loftier and somewhat rationalistic form in the teachings of Origen 
and Clement of Alexandria. It is latent in every great theological 

In the early centuries its finest manifestation and most exquisite fruit 
are found in the " Confessions " of St. Augustine. There were two 
men in this Doctor of the Church ; the son of Monica and the orthodox 
bishop, the man of the Spirit and the man of authority. Likewise in 
his doctrine we find the theology of faith, whence have issued two cur- 
rents, traversing all the Middle Ages : the scholastic stream which ends 
in the triumph of Roman Curialism and the mystical stream which ends 
in the Reformation. The ardent piety of St. Bernard and of Gerson, 
the theology of St. Victor and his disciples, the " Imitation of Jesus 
Christ," the preaching of Tauler, the Friends of God, the Brothers of 
the Common Life, the reforms of Peter Waldo and the initiative of 
Francis of Assisi, are proofs that the divine stream never ran dry, and 
that, whether under the open sky or in the shades of monastic retreats, 
it never ceased to refresh those souls that were athirst for God. 

It grew larger, stronger, more free, in the sixteenth century. 
Luther and Calvin triumphantly levelled the bounds which had impris- 
oned it. Authority was vanquished by conscience, piety was enfran- 
chised from its ancient wardship — at least in principle. It shared the 
life of the age, and came into immediate contact with modem culture, 
thenceforth being at once influenced by and freely influencing it. Thus 
we see religion renouncing its claim to a separate and supernatural 


existence, becoming more and more laicised, after the example of all 
other normal activities of the spirit, entering the domain of human 
affairs, and there acting as an inward leaven to raise the inert mass, 
not changing its nature, but regenerating and sanctifying it. Under 
the massive form of a divine sacerdotal system and an intangible dogma 
religion is a fetter or a menace to social and individual development; 
set free from the rites and institutions with which it had been identified, 
it becomes a penetrating fluid, a savour of life, carrying health and 
peace wherever it goes. I admit that I am speaking of a new religious 
ideal, but it is an ideal which since the sixteenth century has been becom- 
ing ever more and more a reality. 

The Reformation of Luther, the pietism and critical rationalism of 
the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the religious revival of the 
nineteenth, and finally the present alliance of Christian life with scien- 
tific theology, are waymarks along the road, marking the progress made 
by the religion of the Spirit. 

We are able to judge more accurately of its principle and its forms 
than could the greatest minds of past ages. Delirium no longer appears 
to us, as to Plato, the highest manifestation of the divine spirit. To 
be the subject of visions, ecstasies, hallucinations, to hear voices, fall into 
convulsions, and speak by inarticulate cries or obscure sounds, are so 
many symptoms of diseases whose course is known, and which the science 
of medicine undertakes to alleviate or cure. In like manner, thought is 
set free from the old antithesis of the natural and the supernatural, since 
our idea of nature has become large enough and flexible enough to 
include all phenomena, ordinary and extraordinary when duly authenti- 
cated, and Qur piety profound enough and spiritual enough to feel the 
divine influence even more surely in the harmonious and regular course 
of tilings than in such events as at times seem to interrupt it. There- 
fore it is for just cause that we have come to recognise divine inspira- 
tion more easily in a healthy condition of our being than in morbid 
states, and in the calm and clear voice of reason and conscience 


rather than in the tumult and disorder of the senses and the imag- 

If the presence of the Spirit of God in the spirit of man thus gives 
itself to be recognised most perfectly in the active energy of the latter, 
in the normal and honest play and deploying of all his faculties, it is 
clear that not only there can never be any irreducible antagonism be- 
tween the religion of the Spirit and modern science and ethics, but that 
both the investigations and acquisitions of the one, the generous and 
holy affirmations of the other, must unceasingly appear to a sound piety 
as positive forms and manifestations of the religion of the Spirit. The 
gospel, which is the preaching of this religion at once human and divine, 
proposes not to ransom and sanctify merely one part of man, but the 
entire man, with all his faculties; so that in the end the established 
kingdom of God shall coincide perfectly with the realisation of the 
largest and highest ideal of human activity. All asceticism, and the 
dualism which asceticism implies, are thus radically done away in religion 
as in morals and culture. 

But, it may be said, reduced to these terms will not the religion of 
the Spirit be a useless luxury, at best a poem? To ask this is in fact 
to ask if the sentiment of the presence of God in the heart, the conscience, 
and the reason is something superfluous, and faith in his help in the 
inward and outward struggles and temptations of life a vanity. To 
this question we have not only the reply of pious men who have made 
the experiment, in all their native weaknesses and wretchedness, and can 
say at what price the victory may be won, we can also appeal to the 
testimony of sober-minded moralists, who know that it is impossible for 
man to believe in himself without believing in God, who consecrates the 
human ideal, and maintains its ultimate sovereignty over the blind 
fatalism of physical nature. To state it aright, whoever does not 
despair of the ideal duty imposed upon him, whoever affirms the ultimate 
triumph of good in the world, asserts the presence and influence of God ; 
for the good is his highest name, and the progress of the good in 


us upon earth and in heaven is properly his mysterious and blessed 

Human faculties and the whole human being have two sides which 
are in striking and tragical contrast. On one side are reason, senti- 
hifnt, consciousness, things vacillating, desperately miserable, and by 
nature affected with a powerlessness which easily gives reason to sceptics 
and pessimists ! He who does not feel all this deceives or stultifies him- 
self. There is always a touch of melancholy in the most serious effort 
and even in the most fortunate success. But on the other hand, under 
all manifestations of this ephemeral and empirical Me there is I know 
not what invincible force, what ever renewed energy, what ever up- 
springing fountain of faith and hope in the Spirit following upon all 
disappointments, all defeats. Est Deus in nobis. In the Me there is a 
mysterious guest, greater than the Me, and to which the Me instinctively 
addresses its prayer and its trust. Wretchedness and grandeur, defeat 
and victory, all weakness and all strength ! In each human being exists 
that strange contrast which we find so strikingly in the life and death 
of him who called himself the Son of man, in whom were united all 
that is weakest and most sorrowful in humanity and all that is strongest 
and sweetest in God. Our name, like his, is truly Emmanuel: God 
with us. 

The transformation of the Christian consciousness and its liberation 
1 rom all exterior servitude began on the day when piety and science first 
met. They will be completed, and the religion of the Spirit will reign, 
all systems of authority having been done away, on the day when 
piety and science shall have become so mutually interpenetrated as to be 
thoroughly united into a single entity; inward piety the conscience of 
science, and- science the legitimate expression of piety. This being the 
case, nothing appears to be more urgent than the constitution of a truly 
scientific theology. 




An Antmomy Resolved 

Considered exclusively in its antithesis with the religions of authority, 
the religion of the Spirit appears chiefly under a formal and negative 
aspect. It is easy to see what it is not ; what it is does not appear. 
Nevertheless the Spirit which enfranchises the religious consciousness, 
giving it its inner norm, is a positive and well-defined power. To arrive 
at a complete definition of the religion of the Spirit this power must be 
defined and its principle recognised. 

The form of the religion of the Spirit is liberty ; its content is the 

But here an antinomy at once presents itself, which it is before all 
things important to examine and resolve. Is it possible to attribute 
to the religion of the Spirit a substantial and particular content with- 
out compromising its pure spirituality? Is not the device of modem 
Protestantism — the gospel and liberty — in itself contradictory? Must 
not liberty destroy the gospel? Does not the gospel restrain liberty? 

It is evident that everything here depends upon the notion which is 
entertained of the gospel and of liberty. The contradiction is flagrant 
and irreconcilable if by the gospel is understood an exterior letter, a for- 
mula, a doctrine authoritatively imposed upon man, or if liberty is 
understood as a state of absolute indecision and indifference. But if 
to be free is to be autonomous, that is, to have the law within one's self, 
and if the gospel is nothing else than the incitement to a purely reli- 
gious and moral act, the result of which is to bring God to dwell in 
the consciousness as its very principle, its peculiar energy and law, 



nothing can be more evident than that the apparent antithesis between 
liberty and the gospel finds a happy solution in the very notion of the 
Spirit. What, in fact, is the free spirit, if not the spirit which has in 
itself its own law and power of decision? 

We must strip the subject of logical abstractions which warp the 
data of the problem. Unquestionably, abstract freedom is identical 
with absolute indeterminateness, but absolute indeterminateness is a 
word empty of all reality ; it is not to be found in the religious and moral 
life. Everything that exists is determined, because everything that 
exists is conditioned. Liberty is a quality, a form of the activity of 
the spirit, but the spirit is free only to determine itself, and not to 
remain in a state of indetermination, which would be self-destruction. 
Indeterminateness is annihilation. Whence it follows that liberty re- 
maining persistently undetermined becomes the contrary of liberty, its 
negation. It turns back upon and destroys itself. It is as if the will 
consisted in willing nothing. 

This is why liberty has a law. In morals, its necessary content and 
its law is duty. Let no one say that the law of duty restrains or 
destroys liberty ; experience demonstrates the contrary. Duty sustains, 
fosters, gives life to liberty. In fact, outside of duty there is no 
liberty, as without liberty there is no duty. They are correlative and 
inseparable terms, like form and substance. Liberty is the form of 
duty, and duty is the substance of liberty. 

The religious consciousness yields to the same analysis as the moral 
consciousness. Here again active liberty is not the indeterminateness 
of consciousness, but its autonomy. The common notion that liberty 
consists in doing or not doing, thinking or not thinking, willing or not 
willing whatever one may choose, degrades liberty to caprice, and 
caprice, being determined by the reflex movements of the organism, is 
precisely the opposite of liberty. To be free is not to be without law, 
it is to obey the law of one's being; servitude is subjection to that of 
another. The individual man from his birth is in a state of becoming, 


as humanity has been since the beginning of the world. Emerging 
from animality, man is not, he is being made; he is called to realise 
his moral being according to what physiologists call a " directing " 
or a " morphological " idea latent in his organism, which is what Chris- 
tians call the power and vocation of the Holy Spirit inherent in his 
soul. This idea, or rather, this force which from on high calls him 
and draws him, is the moral substance of his Me, the ideal law of his 
being, which he must obey under peril of destroying himself, of falling 
short of life and happiness, of losing himself. Resisting this law he 
resists not another, but himself. God is in man, but in such wise that 
man can do violence to God only by first smiting and wounding himself. 

In fact, the law of his being is the law of Him who called him into 
life. Divine law and human law are essentially identical. And it is this 
immanent law which, in proportion as man becomes more clearly con- 
scious of it, necessarily constitutes him at the same time dependent, in 
his character as a created being, and free, in so far as he is a moral 
and spiritual being. This is why there is such a thing as religion. 
Religion is the vital and happy reconciliation of dependence and free- 

Thence it follows that it is impossible for a moral being, that is, a 
being who knows and consents to the law of his being, not to be in some 
measure religious, the religious sentiment being at bottom nothing other 
than the sentiment of the relation between the moral being and the law 
which governs him. For this it is not necessary to believe in God in the 
traditional sense of the word; every man who inwardly consents to and 
devotes himself to his law, the ideal law of humanity, and wills this law, 
performs an act of religious faith, avowedly or not, in the precise 
measure of the energy and sincerity of his consent ; he prostrates himself 
and performs an act of adoration. 

The freedom of the religious consciousness does not then depend upon 
the denial of this relation, but upon the terms in which it is constituted, 
the rule which conditions and determines it. Just as my moral con- 


sciousness is oppressed by a legislation, civil or otherwise, whose pre- 
scriptions are entirely foreign to it, so my religious consciousness may 
be oppressed by being subjected to the yoke of an exterior authority 
which clashes with its personal inspirations. Inevitably conflict and 
revolt result from such a condition. But my religious consciousness 
regains liberty and joy so soon as it becomes again autonomous, that 
is, so soon as it recognises that the law to which it has given its faith 
is in reality nothing other than its own law. 

Such a condition is not produced all at once nor in a single day. 
The progress of history and that of education have part in it. The 
conditions and the phases under which human life is developed render 
necessary also stages of progress in the religious evolution. The child 
is born in tutelage and must be guided by an external law; but his 
parents and masters, by awakening his reason and conscience, bring to 
light within him an inward inspiration which is nourished and strength- 
ened by all it feeds on, and soon asserts itself as an autonomous power, 
which judges of all things, and will obey only where it is first convinced. 
This power is the divine element in man ; it is the Spirit witnessing with 
his spirit ; it is the source of all true conviction. Authority and custom 
may impose a belief, but the inward witness alone can give conviction 
of it. This is why the inward tribunal is the last appeal for every con- 
scious adult individual. Look at Luther at Worms facing all the 
authority of the Church and the Empire with the words : " I can do 
no otherwise ; God help me ! " 

Thus, by the mere progress of moral and religious education the 
rule of the life of the Spirit, in early years an exterior force, becomes 
more and more interior; and purifying itself more and more, ridding 
itself of all- that is not strictly spiritual and moral, becomes incor- 
porated with the very consciousness and cannot be distinguished from it. 

In the person of Jesus Christ this interiorising process of the reli- 
gious and moral law was perfectly carried out, and became the very 
principle of his gospel. To Jesus of Nazareth there was nothing ex- 


temal in religion. The new covenant which he brought to men was not 
written upon tables of stone, but upon the tables of his heart, and sealed 
by the witness of the Holy Spirit. Never was will more submissive to 
the will of God, and never was will more autonomous. The divine and 
the human were so intimately interpenetrated that the first found its 
full and complete revelation in the second. Jesus never appears to act 
by constraint; he is always inspired. His religion was essentially the 
religion of the Spirit, and remains forever its source and its perfect 
type. He desired to communicate to his disciples this religious and 
moral consciousness, at once submissive, autonomous, inspired by the 
inward presence of God, that they too might become sons of the Father, 
and free like himself. It was, properly speaking, his Spirit which would 
pass into all Christians, giving them all to have in themselves the norm 
of thought and life. " Where the Spirit of Christ is, there is liberty." 
Of this Spirit the gospel is simply the vehicle and the expression. 
It is not a new law, nor a code of new beliefs ; it is the law of the Father 
and the truth of the Father becoming inward in man ; it is a permanent 
fountain of inspiration, so that the gospel properly becomes the law of 
human consciousness and is forever inseparable from it. Thus is estab- 
lished the same correlation which has already been shown to exist be- 
tween moral liberty and duty. The religion of the Spirit is the ade- 
quate and natural form of the gospel, and the gospel is the content, 
the very substance, of the religion of the Spirit. They form an organic 
unity, which is destroyed when they are separated and set one over 
against the other. 


The Gospel of Salvation 

This conviction becomes stronger in proportion as one penetrates more 
deeply into the spirit, the innermost meaning, and the specific character 
of the gospel of Jesus. Here an effort is the more necessary because 
the Master, who spoke the language and made use of the ideas of his 


time, always clung closely to the traditions of his people, and further- 
more, suited his teachings always to the occasion, and always said to 
his hearers just that which they personally needed to hear; hence it is 
continually necessary that we should overlook the details of his teach- 
ings, and pierce through their historic envelope, if we would seize the 
common thouglit which inspires them, the general purpose which was 
revealed in them. Never was teaching more desultory, and nevertheless, 
never was teaching more a unit, nor more consistent. The question 
is simply whether it was really a teaching in the true sense of the word. 

I have read the Gospels and re-read them. Never once, in any con- 
nection, not more in the narrative of St. John than in the synoptic 
tradition, have I found Jesus in the order of the idea, or of theoretic 
instruction ; he is always in the practical order of life and moral activity. 
He never claimed to be a philosopher or a learned teacher, but a physi- 
cian.^ I should be at a loss to say what new knowledge or belief he 
introduced into the world. The mysteries of the Kingdom of God which 
he revealed are such as can be revealed to the heart of the ignorant and 
the humble, not to the mind of the intelligent and the wise. What he 
brought in himself and sought to communicate was a new life. His 
work was therapeutic; he sought to restore the entire human being to 
health. With him teaching was only a means of healing. He himself 
thus characterised his ministry in his reply to the messengers from the 
Baptist, and his first preaching at Nazareth. The Son of man is come 
to seek that which is lost, to heal the sick, to preach good things to the 
poor, to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for those who are the 
slaves of evil in all its forms. ^ 

No one ever gains anything by discussing ideas with him. It always 
gives rise to misapprehension, for those he offers and those that are 
asked of him are not in the same order of things. Plato asks what are 
the relations between the ideal and the real; Laplace seeks to know the 

' Mark ii. 17, and paral. 

• Matt. xi. 1-6; Luke iv. 17-19; Matt. xi. 28; Luke xix. 10; Mark x. 45, etc. 


origin of the Cosmos; criticism seeks to discover whether the books at- 
tributed to Moses are really his ; and Jesus, as if he had not heard them, 
replies, in his sweet, strong voice, " Blessed are the poor, theirs is the 
Kingdom ; blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness ; 
blessed are the pure in heart! Come unto me, ye who labour and are 
heavy laden, and I will give you rest ! " Evidently, under these con- 
ditions, conversation is impossible. 

Jesus, as Pascal says, did not come, and needed not to come, with the 
pomp of Alexander or the genius and knowledge of Archimedes. He 
came with the only distinctions of his order — holiness and charity. He 
addressed himself to the heart, because in the heart are all the issues 
of life, springs that he desired to reopen and cleanse, being sure that in 
renewing them he would renew the whole life. 

For this reason, having been born in the tradition of his people, he 
remained within its limits with perfect simplicity, and related all his 
teachings to it. In all freedom he moved within the narrow framework 
of popular notions, as a physician in the cabin of the poor makes use 
of such resources and appliances as it may furnish, and with their help 
saves the sick to whom he has been called. 

What matter forms and methods.? It was not in ideas and theories 
that Jesus rested his confidence. He knew that the virtue of his words 
was in himself. It was the presence and the gift of his person which 
acted upon souls, whatever the form or the means by which his presence 
was manifested and his gift applied. He therefore spoke and acted 
at any given time in the manner best adapted to bring himself into con- 
tact with those whom he met along his way; his one purpose was to 
touch the central vital point at which life could be called into being. 
His preachings and promises are in Messianic and eschatological form 
because they could have been in no other. But all this was only the 
outer shell. It must be broken if we would reach the tender and relish- 
ing kernel. To heal and to save were for him synonymous terms. This 
is why his gospel is the gospel of salvation. Salvation is the end of 


every religion, but the idea of salvation is as variable as that of the 
highest good ; it becomes exalted and ennobled along with consciousness 
itself. The savage asks his fetich for a fish or for good hunting, be- 
cause his existence depends upon them. For the pious Israelite of old 
the idea of salvation was still confined to that of individual and national 
felicity, with a long life upon earth. In the prophets the idea became 
spiritualised. Into the hope of Messianic salvation entered a strong 
admixture of the material and moral elements of happiness. In the 
consciousness of Jesus the moral notion became dominant ; the apocalyp- 
tic framework of the Kingdom was not eliminated from his discourses, 
but the centre of gravity of faith was displaced; henceforth it is in 
the heart. Salvation is deliverance from the power of evil, it is filial 
communion with God, which, restored to its proper place in the heart, 
henceforth becomes the spring of the believer's peace and joy, the true 
germ of eternal life, the victory of the Spirit. 

It is impossible for man to become conscious of himself without sit- 
ting in judgment upon himself. This judgment of conscience awakens 
within him the immediate and universal sense of sin, which is the more 
vivid and profound as God speaks more loudly and distinctly within him. 
The sense of sin is born in us of the witness of the Holy Spirit. This 
is why it is an essential and primitive element of the religion of the 
Spirit. To hope to enter it by another door is to indulge in a very 
dangerous delusion. 

Undoubtedly Jesus did not fail to recognise the diversity of moral 
disposition among individuals; he used without scruple the popular 
categories of " good and bad," " just and unjust." But his true 
thought is not doubtful, when refusing for himself the title of " good," 
he reserves it for God alone; or when he relates the parable of the 
Pharisee and the Publican, or distinctly says that the tree must be made 
good before it can bear good fruit. Jesus never discusses nor speculates 
upon the origin and essence of sin ; he constructs no theory of it, he 
simply proposes to awaken a sense of it. He makes use of the most 


familiar images, such as a mortal illness, a debt which the debtor cannot 
extinguish and the creditor must remit, a weakness of the flesh, a dis- 
respect of the will of God, a corruption of the heart, an evil power 
forming an empire of which Satan is the head. But these are simply so 
many popular locutions and figures of speech which it would be useless 
to press in the hope of deducing from them any dogmatic theory what- 
soever. For Jesus, they were mediums and methods by which to arouse 
and deepen the sense of sin and create a moral disposition toward re- 
pentance, a desire for pardon and inward amendment, to which the 
" good message " which he brought to sinners in the name of the Father 
would at once respond. 

Nor does he step outside the limits of moral and religious experience 
when he explains the content of the divine message; he replies to the 
uncertain voice of the human conscience by proclaiming the gospel of 
pardon. God is a father ; he loves his sick and wandering children with 
a love that surpasses thought. He seeks after them, pardons them, 
calls them to himself; he desires to save them, and to give them, with 
his Spirit, eternal life. Jesus is no less formal with regard to the con- 
ditions of pardon and salvation. He lays down only one — faith. 
" Change your ways and believe the good news." We say only one, for 
the change of ways, the return to God by repentance, and faith, are not 
two things which it is possible to separate. Repentance is the beginning 
of faith, and faith is the completion of repentance. Both belong to 
the moral order of heart and will, and to the intellectual order of 

Care must be taken not to confuse faith with belief. Being different 
in origin, the two words are of very distinct significance ; they designate 
two acts of the soul, which, notwithstanding their intimate alliance and 
frequent simultaneity, belong to two orders as different as those of the 
heart and the intelligence. In the evangelical sense, and in the dis- 
courses of Jesus Christ, faith always implies a moral relation between 
person and person. It is an act of confidence in God, in his justice and 


his love, the gift of the entire heart, the consecration of the will.^ The 
nature of faith is determined by its object. This object is God, coming 
in person to man with his promises, blotting out sin and taking up his 
abode in the conscience of men as a Spirit of strength and life, to cause 
the spirit of those who receive him to live and develop. This is why 
faith is necessarily followed by the gifts of the Spirit, this is why it jus- 
tifies and sanctifies the sinner. 

Faith thus understood is God consciously felt in the heart, the 
inward revelation of God and of his habitation in us. This is the reli- 
gious originality of the gospel, the characteristic which most profoundly 
separates it from the Mosaic and other religions of antiquity. Faith, 
then, remains the generating principle of the religion of the Spirit, for 
in and by it the Spirit of God and the spirit of man meet, enter into 
one another, and so form a happy and indissoluble unity. 

From one end to the other the gospel of salvation moves in the order 
of the moral life: sense of sin, repentance, love of God, faith, all these 
elements arc of the same nature. Salvation and the higher life of the 
Spirit are not bound to a doctrinal yoke, a burden of practices and good 
works which a man must take upon his shoulders, will he nill he, by ascetic 
virtue. Cease, then, troubled souls, from needlessly tormenting your- 
selves with the belief that you are outside of the religion of salvation 
because you vainly attempt to appropriate dogmas and beliefs against 
which your reason and conscience invincibly protest. And you also, 
souls out of conceit with faith ; no longer turn away from the gospel of 
salvation because an intolerable theology has awakened in you disdain 
or contempt. There is nothing in the gospel which your conscience 
may not recognise as that highest good to which secretly it aspires; 
nothing which, if you sincerely desire it, you cannot yourself experience, 
and thus recognise it as the very soul of your soul. The true gospel is 
the salvation of every man in distress, by enabling him trustfully to 

' Mark xi. 22: tx*''* Triffriv SeoO. Matt. xxi. 31: Pidem quam par est, excellently 
says Bengei, habere eos qui Deum habent. 

return to God. It is all the simple and yet profound story of the 
Prodigal Son/ 


The Gospel of Salvation and the Person of Christ 

Here we reach the real difficulty. Does not the person of Jesus occupy 
the central place in his gospel? Is it not presented as the object of 
faith and love? Can one be a Christian without being attached to his 
person by an especial tie? And on the other hand, if this exterior his- 
toric element is essential to Christianity, can the latter still be proposed 
as pure religion, the wholly interior and moral religion of the Spirit? 

I have nowhere found this point satisfactorily cleared up. The 
most pious as the most learned men waver between the orthodox solu- 
tion, which makes of the historic person of Jesus a metaphysical entity, 
a second God in the dogma of the Trinity, and the solution of Unitarian 
rationalism, which breaks every tie between the person of Jesus and the 
Christian faith, and makes him a prophet, and a martyr to his gospel. 
Some mitigate the orthodox doctrine, contenting themselves with affirm- 
ing the pre-existence of the person of Jesus, but none the less setting him 
apart from the human race, making him radically a stranger to it, 
simply entering and passing through it by an arbitrary act of his will. 
Others with pious effusion veil their rationalism with a mystical cloud, 
but at bottom Jesus remains a man, and they cannot explain the part 
which he attributes to himself when he says to his disciples, " Come to 
me, believe in me, confess me before men, love me more than father or 
mother, follow me," etc. The former offend against history, the latter 
against piety, or rather, they wound the Christian consciousness in its 
deepest and most sensitive place. 

The orthodox doctrine of the divinity of Christ distorts the true 

character of the gospel of salvation not less than the rational doctrine, 

and is no less outside the authentic preaching of the Master. To what 

in his person do they in fact attract the attention and adoration of the 

'Appendix XCII. 

believer? Is it not above all to his metaphysical dignity, (eternal pre- 
existence, homoousia of the Father and the Son, etc.), that is, to an ele- 
ment in which there is nothing moral or religious, from which it results 
that we ought to adore Jesus because of his exalted nature, his tran- 
scendent and divine power, independently of what he has done for us? 
All this is positively outside of Christianity and outside of the gospel 
of salvation. Jesus never demanded such adoration from his disciples 
nor laid claim to this metaphysical dignity. In this conception every 
tie is broken between Jesus and his gospel, which is wholly moral and 
spiritual, as well as between it and the Christian consciousness. Observe, 
further, the practical consequences. The subtile metaphysic of the 
dogma of the Trinity is necessarily transformed, in the piety of the 
simple, into a sort of mythology, and tritheism, issuing in idolatry. 
There is nothing surprising in this. In the dogma of the Trinity there 1 
is a root of paganism. 

On the other hand, rationalism ends no less fatally by making a law 
of the gospel; monotheism is thus saved, but God remains always ex- 
ternal to man. By this view Christianity is degraded and descends to 
the rank of a Judaism torn out of its national surroundings. Hence a 
paganising tendency in one class, and a Judaising in the other — two 
contrary tendencies. Christian thought seems to be powerless to avoid 
the one without succumbing to the other. 

The way of escape is in the religion of the Spirit; it enables us to 
surmount both. Far from opposing and excluding the part which Jesus 
gave to his person in his preaching, the religion of the Spirit offers the 
sole point of view from which this part may be explained and justified. 

Many modem theologians, desiring to reduce to a system the gospel 
of salvation of which the essential elements have been given above, speak 
of the " paternal theism " of Jesus, and deem that they have thus aptly 
defined the doctrine which one must believe in order to be a Christian. 
They are not aware that in thus changing the gospel Into a doctrine, — 
it matters little whether excellent or not, — they distort its essential char- 


acter, and make it to pass from the order of life to that of thought, 
from the order of the heart into that of the intelligence. Jesus would 
not recognise his own work here. We admit that it may be maintained 
in the schools — and we might discuss it as we would discuss any other 
interpretation — that " paternal theism," as it is called, comes at the end 
of Christian theology as the best theoretical expression of the doctrine 
brought to life by the influence of Jesus ; but the gospel history forbids 
that this doctrine of paternal theism should be set down as the premiss 
of the gospel and the object of the preaching of Jesus. This would 
make him a scribe, more enlightened than the others, and nothing more. 
But Jesus never taught any particular doctrine as to God, sin, the 
future life ; he never concerned himself to build up a system of theology 
which he could first teach his disciples and afterward draw from it moral 
applications more or less new. Once again, his work was of another 

He brought in no new religious ideas ; he made use of those that he 
found at hand, choosing those best adapted to his purpose. His unique 
and persistent purpose was to create a new religious life in the souls 
of his disciples, to animate them with his own faith. Exhortations and 
healings, parables and acts of mercy, are, if we rightly apprehend them, 
only means for him, the vehicles of the divine spark which he purposed 
to enkindle in the heart. 

From whence came this spark ? How could Jesus modify and renew 
the religious consciousness of his disciples, otherwise than by imparting 
to them the purely religious and moral content of his own consciousness, 
by making them experience what he himself experienced — in other words, 
by transforming them into his Image and resemblance by the insistent 
influence of his whole being? 

Let us consider the matter: if Jesus taught no new doctrine, but 
simply proposed to give to weary and burdened souls that which he had 
in himself, what else could he do than point them to his own person, 
saying in tones till then unheard, " Come unto me ; ye shall find rest 


for your souls ; follow me, love me, believe in me ; I live in the Father 
and the Father is in me." So he invites them to enter into the mystery 
of his own inward life, the sacred place where the Father and the Son 
hold connnunion, and reveal to one another their mutual love and faith. 
If he did not do this, Jesus did nothing and could do nothing, since he 
taught us no new religious doctrine. But this was his Messianic voca- 
tion, understood as that of Javiour of his people ; in this was the intrinsic 
force of his words, the efficient power for salvation which they bore in 

Let us follow out this historical analysis. Why did Jesus desire 
thus to introduce his disciples into the intimacy of his own conscious- 
ness.? What did he expect them to find there, and what bring away? 
Did he propose to dazzle them with the metaphysical brightness of a 
supernatural being, with the glorious power of a God who had come 
down to earth? Let us put away all these pagan imaginings, more 
worthy of the worshippers on Olympus than of those on Tabor, and ab- 
solutely foreign to the thought of the Master who was meek and lowly 
of heart. Have you not, indeed, been struck with the fact that this 
preaching of himself, which in any other man would be the acme of pride 
and folly, never seems inconsistent with his humility, and militates little 
against his good sense? In it is mingled no egotistic -or vain-glorious 
preoccupation. With absolute simplicity Jesus in the same breath de- 
clares that God alone is good, confesses his own ignorance, submits him- 
self to the Father's will, precisely as he would have his humblest disciple 
do, likens himself to them, makes their interests his own, feels that he 
is one with them as he is one with his Father who is in heaven, and 
introduces them into the intimacy of his own spiritual life, in order that 
they may draw therefrom a religious consciousness like his own, that 
they like him may enter into filial relations with the Father who is also 
their Father, in order to become religiously like him, and be his brethren, 
his friends, his family. In other words, it is his will that in him, in 
heart communion with him, they may find the Father. Thus he calls 


them to himself only that he may lead them to God, in order that then, 
more than ever, God, and God alone, may be the supreme object of their 
faith and love. 

Thus there are not two things in the gospel, a moral doctrine and 
a metaphysical doctrine of the person of Jesus set over against and 
outside of it. The dignity of the person of Jesus is not his metaphysi- 
cal essence, but the purely moral and religious content of his conscious- 
ness. His person is the incarnation, the living expression, of the gospel. 
From his person the gospel receives its creative virtue; it enters the 
world as a historic potency, a leaven of renovation and of life. The 
religious consciousness of Christ, far from being an obstacle to the reli- 
gion of the Spirit, is the elect point in the world, the holy place, from 
which this religion, like the river that flowed forth from the temple, 
gushes forth a living spring to water all future generations. 

To believe in Christ, to be united to him by the influence of his 
word and work, is in fact nothing else than to believe the gospel, or more 
properly speaking, to receive it as a living principle and realise it in 
ourselves. This is not a new condition of salvation added to that which 
Jesus himself had earlier laid down, namely, the return to God by faith. 
The Master freely admitted that one might be saved without personally 
confessing his name. The important point was not to proclaim and 
glorify him as Lord, but to do the will of the Father. And on the other 
hand he declared that all manner of sins could be forgiven men, even 
evil speaking against the Son of man. And if this declaration is appli- 
cable to those who blaspheme him, so much the more must it apply to 
those who know him not.^ 

The only sin which cannot obtain pardon is the sin " against the 
Holy Ghost," that is, persistent contempt and violation of the witness 
of God in the consciousness. Is not this the authentication of the reli- 
gion of the Spirit, in which only man himself can entirely save or lose 
himself? Yes, Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life. But 
if to love Jesus Christ and be joined to him is to follow the way of truth 
*Matt xii. 32; Luke xii. 10. 


and life, it is equally true that to love truth above all other things, to 
dedicate one's self to it and rest one's hope in it, is still one way of fol- 
lowing Jesus, of walking in his footsteps and essentially finding him, 
even though one misapprehends and stands aloof from him. Such 
ignorance and misconception arc only for a time, and when the veil is 
drawn away, when broad day succeeds to the twilight of the present 
hour, those who repulsed Christ because they knew him not will perceive 
that in their pursuit of truth they were obeying the guidance of his 
Spirit, all unknown to themselves. 

Nevertheless it is evident why in the normal course of things the 
person of Christ is the essential factor in the Christian religion, and why 
Christianity cannot be severed from him without death. That which 
makes us Christians is not the letter of the gospel, it is the Spirit of 
Christ. But the Spirit is the emanation of his consciousness. Enter- 
ing into ours it transforms it from the consciousness of a wretched and 
sinful man into the consciousness of a child of the Father. This is why 
the heart of every Christian is bound to Jesus Christ and must ever be 
so bound ; bound to the story of his outward life as the type of life which 
it is his task to reproduce, bound to his person as the source of holy 
inspiration, without which he can do nothing. The full and normal de- 
velopment of the Christian consciousness can take place only under the 
influence of Christ. He is the vine whose sap flows into the branches. 
His consciousness is the generating cell whence proceed all other like 
cells of that social organism which Paul calls his body, and of which 
his Spirit is the common, sovereign soul. 

Then we perceive the sense in which Christ is the mediator. Not in 
the hierarchical sense in which Catholics have instituted the mediation 
of the Virgin Mary and the saints ; not in the sense that we have in him 
a secondary God, more human, and more accessible to our prayers and 
our complaints. We do not address ourselves to Jesus by way of dis- 
pensing ourselves from going to the Father. Far from this, we go to 
Christ and abide in him, precisely that we may find the Father. We 


abide in him that liis fihal consciousness may become our own, that his 
Spirit may become our Spirit, and that God may dwell immediately 
in us as he dwelt in him. Nothing in all this carries us outside of the 
religion of the Spirit ; on the contrary it is its seal and confirmation. 


Faith, Belief, and Theology 

In all that has preceded I have carefully distinguished between faith 
and belief, reserving the first expression for that act of heart and will — 
an essentially moral act — whereby man accepts the gift of God and his 
forgiveness, and consecrates himself to him; and applying the second 
to that intellectual act by which the mind gives its consent to a historic 
fact and to a doctrine. This distinction has become necessary in our 
day ^ for everyone who seeks to apprehend the true character of the 
gospel of salvation, and understand in what way it saves us. That 
which saves the soul is faith, not belief. God demands the heart of 
man, because the heart once gained and changed all the rest follows, 
while the gift of all the rest without the heart is only a seeming, and 
leaves the man in his first estate. 

Is this to say that psychologically faith can ever be found without 
some belief, the sentiment without the idea, and that doctrine is a matter 
of indifference to piety? Both propositions are absurd, and can never 
occur to a reasonable mind. Every psychical act tends to become con- 
scient, and by this very fact to produce a representative and suggestive 
image, an idea, capable not only of perpetuating the memory of the 
act, but also of reproducing it. But this organic connection of the 
moral with the intellectual element in the religious act of faith and 
conversion can never hinder our perceiving the specific nature of each, 
or observing that whatever in faith Is of the intellectual order is not 
that in which its saving virtue consists ; both because intellectual opera- 
tions are governed by other laws than those which rule the moral will, 

» Appendix XCIII. 


and because the gift of God in the gospel, being a moral act of God, 
can in no otherwise be received or even comprehended, but by a corre- 
sponding moral act in man. 

The moral revelation of God is accompanied by a peculiar evidence, 
which to be apprehended needs only a pure heart and an upright will. 
Faith addresses itself to verities of this order. It imphcates the moral 
activity of the spirit. Its object is always a moral or religious reality 
immediately manifest to consciousness, without other demonstration than 
the inward demonstration of the Holy Spirit. This is why the true 
beginning of faith is a change effected in the moral disposition of the 
soul, and its end entire and final consecration to the will of God. No 
doubt faith presupposes that the good news has been heard, but it is 
born only of the witness of God within us. 

Of a different nature is the act by which the mind holds a history 
or a doctrine as true upon the authority of a tradition, a witness, or any 
tribunal soever. The certitude of such a belief is neither of the same 
species nor in the same degree as the certitude of faith. Belief and 
faith are neither destroyed nor restored by the same causes. Nothing 
but sin, frivolity of heart, the death of the conscience, can very gravely 
disturb the essential relations between the soul and its ideal law, the 
inward principle of its life, that is to say, its God. Though enfeebled 
or extinct, faith can always be born again in self-recollection, repentance, 
and prayer. On the contrary, a belief once overthrown by criticism 
can never again be built up. Doubt corrodes it until a new conception 
of things finally does away with it and gives its place to another. The 
verbal inspiration of the Bible, demoniac possession, the Mosaic origin 
of the Pentateuch, were once beliefs ; but now they have vanished away. 
Little by little belief, first erected into dogma, becomes attenuated into 
an opinion, and finally gives way to something entirely different. This 
is the inevitable law of the historic evolution of human ideas. Every 
religious and moral faith clothes itself in an intellectual form as a means 
of self-manifestation and propagation. But every such intellectual 


form is fatally inadequate to its object and to that extent simply sym- 
bolical ; with the process of time it undergoes various interpretations or 
becomes profoundly modified. In an active and vital religion the warp 
remains the same, but the tissue is changed by the continual addition of 
new threads and the dropping out of old, worn-out, and decaying ele- 
ments. This is why we have a history of dogma. The history of the 
dogmas of expiation and of the divinity of Christ is particularly 

The effect of this mobility of the forms of belief is to constrain 
faith — which in the beginning appeared to be one with belief — to take 
clearer cognisance of its essential principle and native independence. In 
the Old Testament faith was bound up with legal observances. In St. 
Paul it works free from the Mosaic law, the entire ritual part of which 
is struck with death. In Luther it asserts its independence of the com- 
mandments of the Church. Later Protestant orthodoxy sought to hold 
it in bondage to a certain number of dogmas. In our days, it is still 
carrying on the struggle, and is gradually triumphing by establishing 
a clear distinction between itself and all forms of belief. 

The more we insist upon this capital distinction the more essential 
it is to establish the organic connection between doctrine and faith, their 
vital solidarity. In the domain of the soul's life all things are inter- 
linked and interdependent, there is an uninterrupted series of mutual 
actions and reactions of all its elements. Even a momentary interrup- 
tion is disease; long continued it is death. If faith gives birth to doc- 
trine, doctrine in its turn may produce faith, and in every case it either 
sustains faith or paralyses it. No feeling is sterile for thought; no 
thought is sterile in the life of the heart. Disastrous consequences as 
surely flow from error as luminous inspiration from the good willed 
and performed. Life comes before thought, religion before theology; 
but the labour of thought either enriches or impoverishes life, and the- 
ology either serves or compromises religion. Hence the importance 
of a sound and right theology. 


Theology is spontaneously born of faith as philosophy of experience. 
Its character and function are twofold; it is at the same time critical 
and positive. 

Being critical it aids the Christian consciousness of any given time 
in getting a grasp of its principle, in apprehending it in its original 
native purity, in disengaging it from inconsistencies and errors which, 
however incessantly it may war against them, continually spring up 
again and threaten to stifle it. 

On the one hand are paganism and Judaism, affecting the very 
essence of the Christian spirit; and on the other traditionalism, which 
steals away its liberty, and vndependency, which, cutting it off at the 
roots, checks the flow of its sap. 

The pagan tendency finds its most obvious and crudest expression 
in Catholicism, in the constitution of its priestly hierarchy, in the opus 
operatum of its sacraments, and all the superstitious practices with 
which Catholic devotion persists in overlaying itself. But it would be 
as superficial as fallacious to find it only in these. The essence of pagan 
error is the confining of the activity of God to an outward form, and 
submerging of spirit in matter. There is a taint of paganism in every 
tendency to materialise and localise religion, to restrain the freedom of 
the Spirit of God, to leave out of view its transcendence over all con- 
tingent creatures and institutions of history. There is something pagan 
in indifference to the sanctity of the Christian ideal, in an emasculated 
consciousness of sin and of human responsibility such as is but too com- 
mon in our days. There is something pagan even in our so-called reli- 
gious revivals, under whatever name of literary Christianity, neo-Chris- 
tianity, religion of human suffering, and other forms of mysticism, in 
which adoration becomes a mere aesthetic luxury. Whenever piety throws 
overboard the ballast of moral consciousness it gets lost in the fog, and 
evaporates into poetry. 

Over against this error stands the Jewish error of a legalistic and 
Pharisaic tendency. In it the outward authority of the letter is put in 


the place of the inward authority of the Spirit. It conceives of reli- 
gion and practises it as a contract, God and man apart from one another, 
and each making his conditions. It not only cuts off Christian mys- 
ticism at the root, but puts the law in the place of grace, and salvation 
by works in the place of salvation by faith. Once admit into the Chris- 
tian Church this tendency to deny the purely religious and moral notion 
of faith, and add to the unique condition of a trustful return to the 
Father any external condition whatever, whether the practice of a form 
of devotion or the profession of a traditional belief, and the very prin- 
ciple of Christianity is impaired or modified, being tainted with Phar- 

Theology may guard itself against the pagan error by critical sym- 
bolism, which, recognising the historic necessity of rites and formulas, 
is able always to discern in them the ideal principle of the religion of 
spirit and truth, and to make it act upon them as a leaven of reform, 
of progress, of continual ascent toward eternal truth. Against the 
Jewish error Christian thought may defend itself by fideism, that is, by 
an ever stricter adhesion to the primitive content of the gospel of sal- 
vation by faith alone. The religion of the Spirit embodies the living 
practical synthesis of critical symbolism and fideism, that is, of the moral 
content and the free character of Christian inspiration.^ 

Two other tendencies are opposed to the religion of the Spirit: they 
are simply disguised daughters of those already pointed out. One is 
traditionalism, into which the Roman Church is gradually stiffening; 
the other is independency, or the false individualism by which the Prot- 
estant churches are crumbling to pieces, their activity evaporating and 
becoming socially sterile. When the past in all its periods and all forms 
of its development is apotheosised it is at once set apart from criticism 

* Fidiisme, for which we have no English word, is the word adopted by Dean Saba- 
tier and his school (and especially expounded by his colleague Prof. M^n6goz), as the 
term for the "religion of the Spirit." See Prof. G. B. Stevens, of Yale, in the 
Hibbert Magazine for April, 1903, on " Auguste Sabatier, and the Paris School of 
Theology."— rran». 


and consequently from every serious attempt at reform ; its necessary 
progress is checked. In vain is the attempt made to-day, following 
Moehler and Newman, to introduce the idea of evolution into Catholic 
tradition ; it is only a seeming. Tradition, having been declared forever 
infallible, has become a solid body, no part of which can be denied or 
given up, and its ever-increasing weight must fatally stifle every new 
initiative of the Christian spirit. Acting according to the law of 
affinities, the superstitions of the past cannot but favour the growth 
of new superstitions in the future. There is no other explanation of 
the rapid decline down which Roman Catholicism has for two centuries 
been hastening. The same tendency would bring about the same results 
in Protestantism itself, if ever it should succeed (as is happily impos- 
sible) in constituting itself a system of authority. The sterility of all 
reactionary Protestant movements is proof and warning of this. 

As a matter of fact. Protestantism suffers from the opposite ill. 
Catholicism fails to recognise the valid rights of the Christian conscience. 
Protestant individualism too often overlooks a no less important fact 
of another order — the organic bond between the individual and the spe- 
cies, the child and the family, the man and society. Neither individual 
life nor individual thought enjoys absolute plenitude. It is an error 
to suppose that either is independent and sufficient to itself. There is 
profound truth in the popular adage " One is always somebody's child." 
Physiology maintains it, history proves it. The Protestant Christian 
who isolates himself, believing that he can draw all religious truth from 
his Bible or his individual inspiration, lives and thinks in unreality. 
His intellectual obstinacy springs from ignorance and keeps him in it. 
We have need one of another, quite as much from the point of view of 
the moral life as of material existence. An individual experience is only 
a part of the total experience of humanity, and apart from this totality 
it runs the risk either of exaggerating its own value or of being swal- 
lowed up in senseless pride or dejected scepticism. This is why the 
testimony of others, communion with the brethren, are necessary to us. 


Only in this social solidarity can the Christian life blossom out, and find 
at once health and security. An unsocial Christianity is a stunted and 
sterile Christianity. 

The religion of the Spirit, then, must reconcile all that is true in 
both Catholic and Protestant principles, by stripping both of whatever 
may be false and narrow in them. It can accomplish this task only by 
the aid of history and psychology, nursing mothers of a sound theology. 
The psychology of the Christian consciousness confirms it in the senti- 
ment of its independence and inherent value. History gives it the sense 
of continuity in the religious and moral development of the entire human 
race. Faith, that deepest root of the religion of the Spirit, by its own 
power creates two intuitions : that of liberty, by which the soul possesses 
and asserts itself, and that of love, by which it gives itself to the whole 
creation and enters into communion with it. The first gathers up all 
the powers of the soul and concentrates them upon itself, the other car- 
ries it out of itself, and pours it forth upon the world. The first makes 
it strong to resist all forms of tyranny ; the other makes it capable of 
all sacrifices and disposed to all loyal and legitimate concessions. The 
former maintains the individual life, the latter cements the life of society. 
To faith all things are possible; to love all are easy. The religion of 
the Spirit is compounded of faith and love. To develop and build up 
these two necessary qualities should be the task of theology. 




The Spirit of Piety and the Scientific Spirit 

A RELIGION of authority gives rise to a scholastic theology ; by the same 
necessity the religion of the Spirit seeks to find form and expression in 
a theology which is increasingly scientific. The autonomy of thought 
corresponds to the autonomy of the religious consciousness. Each in- 
evitably demands the other. 

In bringing criticism to bear upon the historic forms of the past, 
scientific theology forces religion to throw off those foreign elements 
which in the course of its evolution it has borrowed, and to assert itself 
as in essence purely religious and moral. This done, it is the religion 
of the Spirit. And on the other hand a religion thus pure imposes no 
external bond upon thought. Solely by moral obligation it binds and 
consecrates thought to the indefatigable and disinterested search for 
truth. To seek for truth by the loyal exercise of the intelligence, and 
pursue after holiness by the energy of an upright will and a purified 
heart, appear henceforth as the two essential and parallel functions of 
the religion of the Spirit. If truth is the divine sister of righteousness 
there is equal piety in the labour which leads to either, or rather both 
suppose the same moral effort. 

Without the slightest doubt, the effort to reconcile the doctrines of 
authority with modern science, which knows no other method than that 
of observation and experience, is as the attempt to weld together a clod 
of clay and an iron bar. This is why all past compromises and at- 
tempted conciliations have so miserably ended in shipwreck. Quite 



other is the profound affinity between religious and scientific inspira- 
tion. They spring from the same source, they tend to the same end, 
and both manifest the same hfe of the Spirit. Both are bom of a reli- 
gious love of truth. The spirit of piety adores the truth, even when 
it does not recognise it ; the scientific spirit perhaps seeks for truth with- 
out adoring it, but both love it above all else, and devote themselves to 
it without reserve. They meet and hold communion together in the reli- 
gion of the truth. 

Let us for a moment forget professional scholars and bigots, their 
hatreds, inconsistencies, and absurdities, the theology of the former and 
the pretentious oracles of the others. The question that occupies us, 
let us again repeat, is neither concrete religion nor established science, 
but the intellectual effort which creates science and the profound senti- 
ment which gives birth to religion, independently of their more or less 
striking manifestations in everj^day life. Can we not feel that in its 
ideal aspiration, in the heroic labour which it undergoes, the sacrifices 
it inspires, the triumphs it achieves, and especially in the humility with 
which, after each victory, genius bows before the eternal mystery, the 
task of human science is holy, that it is impious to speak evil of it, and 
that it ascends from our poor earth as a magnificent homage to the God 
of truth? 

Nothing is more striking nor more touching than the kind of piety 
with which science inspires all great men of learning : Kepler, Descartes, 
Pascal, Newton, Pasteur. See their awe inspired by each discovery; 
follow Littre to the last headland of positive science. Why are all of 
them plunged in solemn contemplation? What mysterious power bows 
them before the ultimate, and changes their ardent and victorious re- 
search into adoration? 

From a conquered truth, as from an accomplished duty or sacrifice, 
some mysterious perfume exhales, which makes fragrant the whole soul 
life, and gives it over to humility and joy. 

In our days much has been said of the religion of science ; it has even 


been claimed that this religion would do away with all others and reign 
in their place. Tliis is not true, first, because science is no more the 
whole of life than thought is the whole soul, and again, because those 
who speak thus of science speak in the most unreligious way possible. 
None the less is it true that the object of science is eminently religious, 
and that the pursuit of science is an integral part of religion. The 
religion of science is no more safe from superstition and fanaticism than 
any other religion, and easily turns to idolatry. But even in idolatry 
religion forces itself into recognition. The true religion of science is 
not that which deifies ephemeral results or material power, but that which 
holds research itself to be holy, the steady ascent of the spirit toward the 
larger light. 

While learned men who fail to recognise the religious character of 
science narrow and restrict the bounds of their horizon, religious men 
who fear science and will have none of it no less strike a mortal blow 
at their own faith. They deliberately shut themselves up in a dark 
prison, where their piety, deprived of light and air, must inevitably waste 
away and die. 

Why then should we permit ourselves to be shut up to the alterna- 
tive of choosing between an irreligious science and an ignorant or unin- 
telligent religion ? So false a dilemma is created only by fanaticism ; 
the fanaticism of those who proscribe religion in the name of science, 
and that of those who anathematise free research in the name of religion. 
It disappears at once before a mind free from passion and prejudice, 
sincerely resolved ever to bring more piety to its scientific work and more 
science to its piety. The struggle between these two powers of the soul, 
neither of which can be coerced, makes the agony of the individual soul 
and the woe of society. Their reconciliation will be the peace and salva- 
tion of both. 

Science in piety is scientific theology. 



Conditions on which Theology May Become Scientific 

The time has gone by when theology, as a Roman matron her hand- 
maidens, held all other mental disciplines under its sovereign sway. 
That time will never return unless humanity, decrepit and senile, falls 
into a second childhood. To-day the situation is entirely reversed, 
The present question for theology is whether it may achieve a place in 
the consecrated choir of modern sciences, or whether it will be shut out 
for want of any common interest with them. 

The scientific consciousness of our time recognises, in fact, no spe- 
cifically sacred science, no science fallen from heaven and not the fruit 
of man's travail of mind. From its point of view the most transcendent 
theology, however saturated with mystery, is still a human thing. To 
take refuge behind a supernatural authority, that it may thus impose 
itself from without upon the mind, is in its opinion nothing other than 
gratuitously to cut itself off from all communion with the scientific 
labour of modern times. That which was once the dread privilege of 
theology has to-day become its fatal infirmity. The question is no 
longer of theology being the queen of the other sciences, but whether 
they will accept her as their sister. 

She can be so accepted only on condition of herself becoming 
science, distinct from the others of course, as to subject, but similar to 
them and of like nature with them as to method. 

Two conditions are necessary to the constitution of a science : in the 
first place it must be competent to set apart from the wide domain of 
the real a well-defined field, large or small, which properly belongs to 
itself, that is, it must have a positive and definite object of study; in 
the second place, in its mode of study it must give up the old method 
of authority and own allegiance to the method of observation and experi- 
ment. Thus one after the other all modern sciences have thrown off' the 
yoke of time-honoured authority and constituted themselves anew. 


Galileo, Bacon, Descartes, were the great initiators of the new era. The- 
ology must undergo a like revolution if it will take its place as a factor 
in the encyclopa?dic organism of human sciences. 

The two conditions just stated are inseparable and mutually self- 
originating. It is because Catholic theology, far from renouncing the 
method of authority, has become more than ever subject to it, that it is 
unable to define its particular object. What is a summa theologicaf 
If one subtracts from it that which properly belongs to rational philos- 
ophy, there is nothing left but an inorganic series of commentaries, 
classified by rubric, upon mysteries which are declared inaccessible alike 
to reason and human experience; so that we arrive at the singular and 
self -contradictory definition of a science whose object is those things 
which cannot be known. Whence it results that the object of theological 
science thus conceived is reduced to formulas that must be correctly re- 
peated and obstinately defended, but which rest upon an obscure 
vacuum, an unknowable reality, whose purely verbal definition it is im- 
possible to verify. How can such formulas be established except by the 
method of authority? Thus the dogma of the Trinity rests upon the 
authority of the bishops of Nicsea and Constantinople, who formulated 
it, and in the scientific order it has precisely the weight of the scientific 
competency of its authors. If it is canonised and declared intangible 
and indisputable, it is so by an authority of the same order as that which 
to-day in France forbids the discussion of the republican form of gov- 
ernment. It is politics; it is not science. 

This is why the Catholic church is obliged to have a science apart, 
separate universities, just as it separates the clergy from the laity and 
religious society from civil. The method of authority so entirely iso- 
lates Catholic theology from the general scientific movement that it is 
futile to enter into discussion with it, and generally it is set aside by 
mere pretention. 

Entirely diflTerent is the history of Protestant theology. Finding a 
place in national universities by the same title as other humane disci- 


plines, it has necessarily followed their progressive evolution, and like 
them has gradually freed itself from the method of authority, and taken 
possession of the restricted but positive domain which is its own. 
Schleiermacher, who at the beginning of the last century was the ini- 
tiator of the new theology, assigned to it the religious phenomenon as its 
object of study; and more especially the Christian phenomenon, which 
is only a higher form of the other ; at the same time he laid upon it the 
method of psychological and historical observation. Religious facts, in- 
deed, belong to the domain of consciousness; they can be grasped, veri- 
fied, and described only by the observation of the religious psychologist 
or by the historic exegesis of documents in which the religious conscious- 
ness of the past has left its imprint. This is why the accurate delimita- 
tion of the object of theology brings in its train the substitution of the 
method of observation and experiment for the old method of authority. 
One had lost all the ground that the other is gaining, and the measure 
of the progress of the new method during the century is the measure 
of the scientific character of the new theology. 

But it will still be long before the habits of the method of authority 
entirely disappear from theology. Far too frequently in discussions 
between theologians we meet forms of reasoning which bear its indelible 
mark. Such are the arguments drawn from practical utility, or reli- 
gious fear. We cite two examples. 

The difficulties raised by the question of the authenticity of St. 
John's Gospel are well known. It is a problem of literary history, and 
should be discussed solely according to the strict method elsewhere used 
by literary history. How many religious critics have thought to sup- 
plement the notorious insufficiency of the traditional proofs by insisting 
that if this gospel is not the immediate work of the apostle, the son 
of Zebedee, the Christian religion is undermined! And it is by virtue 
of such reasoning that they hope to make the apostolicity of this writing 
an article of faith for the Christian conscience! It is almost as if a 
chemist should undertake to establish a theory as to the origin of quinine 


upon the fact that the doctors find it useful for the cure of fever. 
Science demands greater candour. There are in history certain things 
which one sliould be in a condition to affirm; there are also legendary 
things which must be recognised as such, and doubtful matters concern- 
ing which one must be willing to be in doubt until new light shines. We 
may indeed bring down the scales by throwing in some extrinsic matter, 
but that both falsifies the weight and shows a lack of scientific probity. 
If it is not historically demonstrated that the Fourth Gospel is by the 
Apostle John, no extra-historical reasoning will make it so. 

Another example: A certain school of theology which considers 
itself very much emancipated hopes to deduce the dogma of the divinity 
of Christ from the fact of his pre-existence, although there is no neces- 
sary connection between the notions of pre-existence and divinitj^ as is 
proved by Origen's theory of the pre-existence of human souls. And 
to command acceptance of the fact of the pre-existence of Jesus of 
Nazareth they add, as was urged concerning the Gospel of St. John, 
that this is the keystone of the arch of the Christian religion, and that 
if it should be lost to dogmatics, the Christian faith would go with it. 
Thus they cut short the scientific study of the progressive formation 
and development of the notion of pre-existence among the Jews and early 
Christians, and by a sort of authoritative fiat they give the lie to the 
scientific character of theology. Theology cannot be a true science 
until it has been freed from these old tatters of a method which it pro- 
fesses to have abandoned. 

The proper object of theology is the study of the religious phenom- 
enon in general and the Christian phenomenon in particular ; this is that 
section of reality which it is the duty of theology to study and make 
known to others. For however mysterious may be their first cause, and 
however complex may appear their manifestation, religious phenomena 
are psychological facts, which everyone discovers first in himself and 
then in the past. Theology therefore has two sources — psychology and 
history, and their union must constitute its entire method of observa- 


tion, direct and indirect. History is psychology going back to the past 
as far and as fully as the documents permit ; psychology is historj' car- 
ried down to the present moment and into the personal experience of tic 
thinker. There is therefore no compromising dualism in the theological 
method. The more sincerely the method is applied the more serious will 
be its results. If mental probity is a duty in every order of research, 
it seems to be more imperatively so in the religious order, in which illu- 
sions, being more easy, call for the greater vigilance and disinterested- 
ness. The theologian, knowing no sources of information beyond 
psychology and history, ought to be the most clear-sighted of psycholo- 
gists and the most rigorous of critics. He can make his task a scientific 
work only on these two conditions. 


The Degree of Objectivity in Religious and Christian Experience 

An invincible character of subjectivity is inherent in all human sciences, 
because all are in two respects dependent upon the forms of the sensitive 
faculty and the constitution of the mind. Mathematics is no exception, 
notwithstanding the realm of pure evidence in which it moves, for if 
from the formal point of view it is limited to the application of the 
logical principle of identity, A = A, from the material point of view 
it operates only upon the purely relative idea of size or quantity, and is 
based upon the notion of space to which we attain by means of abstrac- 
tion. That which makes the objectivity of the natural sciences is, there- 
fore, not that they find their object outside of the knowledge of it which 
we already possess, it is simply the uncscapable necessity of the laws and 
conditions which determine knowledge. With regard to these laws and 
conditions the will of the thinking subject is powerless. He can make 
an abstraction of them, and the importance of the abstraction in each 
science remains exactly that of the objectivity of which the science may 


But moral sciences, and theology in particular, are subjective to a 
still higher degree. In fact the very object of their study, that is, the 
moral and religious life, is the creation of the free determinations of the 
Me, so that without these determinations of the will moral and religious 
morality would not even manifest itself to the conscience, and would 
awaken in us no image nor any idea. What is moral good, virtue, to 
him whose conscience imposes no obligation upon the will? What is God 
to him who is totally deprived of the religious sentiment, that is, of the 
sense of an inner relation with God.? Now it is certain that the free 
will of the subject intervening here, it depends upon the subject whether 
the religious and moral quality of the life of the spirit is more or less 
clearly felt and perceived by the conscience. Therefore moral sciences 
are doubly subjective as compared with physical sciences. 

And yet, the law according to which religious and moral phenomena 
become realised none the less ends in a sort of objectivity which it is 
necessary to define. The objectivity of the physical sciences is founded, 
J as we have just seen, upon the absolute and constraining necessity im- 
posed upon natural laws by the principle of causality which constitutes 
them. The moral law has doubtless not the same character, but it is 
subject to another sort of necessity, which may be described by Kant's 
expression. Categorical imperative. Moral obligation makes appeal to 
the decision of the Me, and consequently treasures and respects it; but 
on the other hand, is it not absolute in so far as it may prescribe and 
prephesy that which ought to be? Are not the idea of life and the 
idea of the good identical ? If the law of duty is the immanent law of the 
life of the spirit, if outside of it life is overwhelmed and lost in animality, 
if the apostle's word is true, " The wages of sin is death " ; if humanity 
makes no progress, fails to realise its true being or to advance toward its 
ideal, except by obedience; if necessity is laid upon individuals as upon 
nations either to make moral growth or become extinct ; if this law com- 
mands universal evolution, marking its line — does it not become evident 
that on this side the law of duty shares in the objectivity of cosmic 


laws themselves, appearing as highest and most sovereign among 
them all? 

Experience confirms this deduction. Morals and religion, issuing 
from the individualistic sphere of consciousness, become historic poten- 
cies, and with philosophy and science are the great creative potencies 
of civilisation, and the revelatory signs of the true nature of the human 
spirit. That historic objectivity which observation may grasp may at 
least not be denied them, and being granted, moral and religious science 
has at least an equal dignity with philosophy and history, in which it at 
the same time participates. Theology is in fact historical by the 
material upon which it works, and philosophical by the method according 
to which it is constructed. 

It is a grave error to imagine, as is sometimes said, that scientific 
theology has for the object and material of its study only the religious 
or moral phenomena which take place in the individual conscience, and 
that it is consequently useless, because there is no good reason for sup- 
posing purely individual phenomena to be anything else than the dreams 
or illusions of the subject who experiences them. The moral and reli- 
gious life is not only individual, it is collective. It is pre-eminently a 
social and human fact. It is with the moral as with the physical indi- 
vidual. However independent may be its life, it can develop only in the 
bosom of the family or the race. It is a drop of water in a river, a link 
in a chain. In its consciousness are individual phenomena ephemeral as 
a dream, no doubt, or as a caprice or a perverse passion, but there are 
also movements which, being repeated from end to end of the human 
chain, are thus prolonged; there are natural instincts which burst into 
flower and show their true importance only in the life of the entire spe- 
cies. Just as, in the physical order, the love of one sex for the other, 
instead of appearing to be an individual fugitive caprice, is the invincible 
power which preserves and propagates the species, so moral and religious 
inspiration is the mysterious breath which Mfts up the human soul and 
from generation to generation carries man forward toward humanity. 


It is impossible to insist too much upon the organic and indissoluble 
bond which thus attaches individual experience to historic and collective 
experience. Scientific theology considers them in their essential unity, 
and the object of its study lacks neither consistency nor greatness. Its 
problem is to formulate the theory of the religious and moral life of all 

This programme cannot as yet be entirely filled. The religious ar- 
chives of the human race have not yet been thoroughly explored, nor is 
religious psychology as yet sufficiently advanced. The science of reli- 
gion must therefore be progressive; in common with the other sciences 
it will gain a new character which will earn for it credit in place of dis- 
dain. But if its pathway is undefined its direction is at least marked 
by two fixed points which experience has furnished. The first is the 
religious consciousness of savage and primitive man ; the second is the 
religious consciousness of Jesus Christ, which has become the regulating 
principle of the Christian consciousness of civilised peoples. 

To explain the ascending movement by which humanity has passed 
from one point to the other, to reveal the basis and essence of the Chris- 
tian consciousness and explain its necessary relations with human con- 
sciousness in general and with modern culture in particular, this is the 
task with which modern theology is now confronted, and which it may 
undertake with some hope of success. The Christian consciousness is 
not merely an accidental form or part of the general religious conscious- 
ness of humanity, it is a necessary and dominant part of it, to which 
all the others tend as to their ideal, and in which alone they find their 
explanation and perfecting. It is with the final term of this evolution 
as with the summit of a mountain; the summit is a part of the moun- 
tain, but it dominates all the other parts in their ascending stages from 
the depths of the valley to itself, and by that fact it embraces them all 
and assigns to each its place and rank in the whole. 

The line of evolution of all peoples as they press toward the realisa- 
tion of the true humanity necessarily passes by way of Christianity. 


This is why scientific theology cannot be anything else than Christian 


Religion and Theology 

It Is impossible to grasp religious or moral experience in its pure and 
isolated condition. It is with it as with life, which nowhere and never 
manifests itself without matter, although neither its principle nor its 
power resides in matter. So the religious life cannot exist without be- 
lief, although belief is neither its principle nor its source. For this 
reason in these days men almost invariably, and with reason, distinguish 
between religion and theology. 

This distinction, which forces itself upon the religious consciousness, 
implies at the outset two elements in piety. The pious emotion, by which 
I mean the need, the desire, and the impulse which disquiet the entire 
Me and inclines it toward God, is always accompanied by an intuition, 
arising from an ideal picture representing to consciousness the object 
which produces this kind of emotion. In its turn and under the influence 
of reflection this image is changed, in idea, into doctrine and dogma. 
Such is the psychological genesis of the religious phenomenon. Pure, 
abstract logic says that one must know before he can adore, historical 
psycholog}' shows that in the first instance one desires, prays, adores, 
and thus comes to know, and that the definition of the object of adora- 
tion is drawn from the worship offered to it and the benefits expected 
from it. If, as it would be the part of wisdom to do, we restrict the 
term faith to the moral act which inclines the soul toward God, we must 
say, not that belief, an essentially intellectual act, is the cause of faitli, 
but that it is faith which produces belief. In the last analysis, the 
latter is simply the ideal expression of the former. 

It is indeed true that in its turn belief, being preached, provokes 
faith, that is to say, the religious life ; that there is a strong action and re- 
action between the two during their whole subsequent development. But 


we must be wary here ; the belief which is brought to me from without 
by one of my brethren awakens the religious life in me only as it finds in 
me a latent need, a predisposition to faith. Otherwise it remains sterile, 
and I may even accept it unreservedly without by that becoming reli- 
gious. Many so-called conversions are only parrot conversions. 

God alone is the author of life. It is by good right that Christians 
say that faith, the earliest manifestation of the life of the soul, comes 
from the immanent action of God. Man, therefore, receives life, but 
makes his own belief. And this fact establishes a new and most impor- 
tant difference between the life of faith and the form of belief. 

Let us follow it still farther. The propagation of life is not an 
individual act; it is a social act. The individual does not produce 
himself, he is produced in a society. An absolute and abstract individ- 
ualism is false and sterile. Physiology denies it in the physical order, 
psychology in the moral and religious order. To propose to draw life 
from one's self, like certain philosophers and theologians who hope to 
deduce their religious faith from a theoretical demonstration, is a dan- 
gerous delusion, an idealism which will soon leave them discouraged, 
sceptical, and powerless. We must place ourselves in the actuality of 
life. That which takes place for the physical life is precisely repeated 
in the animal life. The source of an individual's life is not in himself, 
but in society. The historic source of the religious life is in the reli- 
gious society. 

Without doubt the Spirit of God is its author. But the Spirit does 
not work by chance, accidentally and from without. The Spirit of 
life is incarnate and immanent in the religious society which it is con- 
tinually creating and renewing. Assuredly it blows where it will, but 
if we may so speak no wind blows apart from the atmosphere ; none comes 
from the azure realms of ether. The wind is found in the agitation of 
molecules of the air; so the mysterious action of the Spirit of God is 
found in the agitation of the spirits of men. Thence the vital bond of 
solidarity which unites the religious man to religious society, the Chris- 


tian to Christian society. The saying of Cyprian, which Calvin em- 
phatically made his own, is true : " The Church is the mother of all of 
whom God is the Father." ^ And this is said, not to limit or deny the 
liberty of God or of man, but to show the organic conditions in which 
both liberties are invariably exercised. 

Such is the order of life; quite other is the order of belief. God 
gives the first; he does not command the second; but he has bestowed 
upon man the faculties of imagination and intelligence that he may note 
the experiences of life, interpret and express them. Without the 
slightest doubt thoughts come from the heart and ideas are born of 
experience, but this is by an intellectual elaboration whose character 
is always and necessarily subjective and contingent. It is with reli- 
gious ideas as with all others; we cannot cite a single one which came 
down ready-made from heaven, none which was not formed in a human 
brain, none whose genesis we cannot trace, and its development through 
generations. The bread of the spirit has its price equally with that of 
the body. Whence ensues this consequence: hereditary conceptions 
which were once individual conceptions are never absolute and may 
always be indefinitely modified by the travail of mind which created them. 

Tempora mutantur^ nos et mutamur in illis. 

If the religious life implies faith, belief implies theology. In the 
first the soul is essentially receptive, in the other it is active and pro- 
ductive. And because the elaboration of doctrine is a work of intellec- 
tual activity it implies the responsibility of the theologian. Here, as in 
every other field of labour, man reaps what he has sown. To speak with 
the apostle, one man brings to this building gold, silver, excellent 
materials, another brings wood or stubble. The fire of time tests the 
value of the work of both.^ 

Very different and even morally contradictory appear therefore the 
attitudes of the believer and the theologian. When, as in the case of the 
» Appendix XCIV. ' 1 Cor. iii. 12, 13. 


theologian, the same man is obliged to maintain both attitudes, how 
shall he reconcile them? From God, through the religious society in 
which he caused me to be born, I receive life, and that I may receive it 
I must be humble and docile; but my personal thought once thus 
aroused, I necessarily become the judge of the teaching I have received. 
Can I stand at the same time in the place of catechumen and critic ; can 
I at once feel the dependence of my individual consciousness upon the 
collective consciousness apart from which my life must dwindle and die, 
and at the same time recognise the autonomy of my thought, without 
which I am no longer I, and cannot even have a personal faith? This 
problem is the problem of life. I escape from the tyranny of the Church 
by the intellectual and moral vigour by which I can distinguish between 
the work of God and the work of men in the very tradition of the Church 
itself; and I escape from the dangers of an individualism rooted in 
nothing, by the humility which reminds me that here below I am at 
school to others, while at the same time I must be the master of myself. 

In fact, both these attitudes are imposed upon me by the needs of 
my nature. Each is justified by the other, and both make progress by 
mutual conflict. The things that I learn at the school of the past serve 
to fortify my own personality, and the stronger it grows, the more 
imperative becomes its duty to find its own place in the social order, and 
discover in this order its function and employment. To individualise 
in myself the faith of my fathers, while freeing it from all that was 
erroneous in that faith, to socialise my personal faith by freeing it from 
all egotism and gaining for it an ever clearer consciousness of being 
rooted in the past, and having much in common with the faith of the 
society of the present, this is my double task, the double rhythm of my 
inward life, by which I love both the tradition which compels me and the 
inward liberty which makes my dignity. 

To remain loyal to the religious tradition of the past, to enhance 
its dignity in the present and carry it on into the future, this is the 
mission of the theologian. . 



The Matter, Function, and Method of Theology 

Theology is in no sense a speculative science. It is an error to con- 
found it with metaphysics. In the psychological fact of religion its 
basis is in experience; and in dogma or traditional theology it finds it.' 
matter formulated by history. Schleiermacher was not without reason 
in classing it among historic disciplines. In our opinion it belongs 
rather to sociology; for religion, the object of its study, is certainly, 
side by side with language, the most important social fact which 
sociology can investigate. The sociological character and importance 
of theology will in the future appear and assert itself with ever greater 

Dogmas, doctrines, received belief, are nothing else than the intel- 
lectual expression of the common religious consciousness in a given 
society. By dogmas and doctrines this consciousness manifests its con- 
tent and explains to itself its origin and reason for being. No doubt it 
finds expression and means of making itself known under still other 
forms; for example, in the forms of worship, and in the institutions 
and customs to which it gives rise. Theology may not fail to take 
account of these. But after all, in nothing is the religious conscious- 
ness more directly revealed, with more precision and clearness, than in 
dogma. In what manner, according to what laws, with what degree 
of legitimacy, does the immediate sentiment of piety which comes from 
God find intellectual expression in figures, in notions, in doctrines.? To 
answer this question, to observe this transition from sentiment to idea, 
and to appreciate in how far the idea is the more or less just and ade- 
quate expression of the sentiment, is the proper task of scientific the- 
ology. Thus dogma is necessarily the matter of its study, the tie by 
which it is bound to the social religious tradition, and labours to give 
it even better and higher form. However radical and severe it may be 
in criticising the formulas of the past, in the end it is always positive, 


for by the very act of setting the rehgious sentiment free from the 
worn-out wrappings in which it suffers, misconceived and paralysed, 
it restores it to inexhaustible vigour and creative power. 

Thence we derive the religious and social function of theology. This 
function is twofold. It is its duty first to make dogmas intelligible, and 
second, to make them respectable. It succeeds in both in proportion as 
it discovers the laws of their birth and development, shows that they 
were originally rooted in piety itself, teaches us to distinguish between 
the sentiment that inspired them and the intellectual elements of which 
they were formed. History at once justifies and condemns dogmas. It 
justifies the form they took on in the past by the historic necessity that 
religion shall always adapt itself to its time and its environment. 
But times and environments change; the intellectual elements of be- 
lief grow old from age to age; they need therefore to be renewed, 
and the truth is that, notwithstanding the most obstinate resistance of 
religious conservatism, they are continually renewed. Thus the crit- 
icism of dogmas goes on side by side with their justification. Trac- 
ing out their transformations in history, theology forces them to lay 
aside such elements as are foreign to religion itself, and notions which 
though once doubtless alive are now dead through disuse. History is 
the ever-sliding sieve of human ideas, or rather, if another comparison 
may be permitted, it is a stream whose waters, continually filtered by 
their passage through successive layers of sand, discharge in each the 
impurities which they took from that preceding and thus slowly attain 
an ever greater degree of hmpidity. 

But the critical history of dogma is only a preface to the work of 
theology. From what has been it must bring forth what ought to be. 
In faith, in that inward piety whence it draws its origin, theology finds 
also an ideal which it is its mission unwearingly to pursue. Essentially 
a reforming agency, it comes to the succour of the religious conscious- 
ness in all the crises through which the latter is called to pass. It is not 
enough that theology shall make clear the senility of the old forms of 


religion ; its task is to create for it new forms, and bring the gospel of 
Christ into more immediate contact with the consciences of men and of 
modem society; to make it the better understood, that it may be the 
more readily accepted. Thus it becomes a beneficent mediator between 
the life-principle of Christianity and the needs and requirements of the 
present time. For those elements of traditional belief which have become 
outworn and unassimilable, it substitutes new intellectual elements, 
philosophical and scientific notions drawn from culture already acquired. 
Thus it results that harmony is restored between that which it would 
be fatal not to retain of the traditions of the past, and that which it 
would be fatal also not to receive with joy and confidence, of the con- 
quests of the present and the future. 

Unquestionably, harmony thus obtained can be neither absolute nor 
final. All is movement in us and around us. It is the part of theology 
simply to respond loyally and efficaciously to the necessities of the present 
hour. It must remain progressive, like all other sciences, which day by 
day do a positive without ever doing a completed work. To interpret 
the life of dogma in the past, and renew it continually in the present and 
the future, such is the double function of theology. 

To accomplish this task theology has at its disposition three instru- 
ments : one historical, Holy Scripture ; one philosophical, the scientific 
mind with its accepted methods; and one of religious discernment, or 
Christian experience and the instinctive sense created by it. 

Holy Scripture, upon which Christian piety can never cease to feed 
without ceasing to be itself, is no longer a dogmatic authority. There 
can therefore be no question of borrowing directly from it and imposing 
upon modem theology any formula or thesis properly so called. There 
are theologoumena in Scripture, but these first elements of the intellec- 
tual explanation of the Christian principle belong to the time, and the 
culture of the time, when the biblical books were written. They must 
be left there, and it is an intolerable anachronism to seek to transport 
them absolutely into our own time. 


But Scripture is none the less a historic document by whose means 
wc can go back to the first springs of Christianity ; it is none the less 
the necessary starting point of all religious and dogmatic development 
since that time. It is the first tradition, if any choose to call it so. 
Having preceded all forms of later tradition, it is the historic norm 
by which these may and should be controlled, that we may know to what 
degree they adhere to or depart from the primitive essence of Chris- 
tianity. All dogmas come from Scripture by way of interpretation ; all 
go back to it as their original source and warrant. They can be ex- 
plained only by it, and the history of each dogma would be incomplete, 
and consequently unintelligible, if it did not begin by showing the germ 
of the dogma in the teaching of the Bible. Only thus can we accurately 
discern what new elements successive ages and philosophies have added 
to it. Theology is not bound under the yoke of biblical conceptions, 
but it is clear that no new dogmatic expression would be legitimately 
Christian if it contradicted the spirit of the Bible and were bound by 
no tie to primitive Christian experience, of which the Bible is the authen- 
tic document. The Bible is not an authority for theology, but it will 
ever be an indispensable means of historic explanation and religious con- 
trol of theology. 

In the second place we have to confront the dogmas and beliefs of 
the past with the scientific spirit and the religious consciousness which 
centuries of culture and reflection have formed in the modem man. Here 
in reality begins the theological task, which consists in nothing else than 
this necessary comparison, with a loyal effort to bring out all its teach- 
ings. Every doctrinal formula is an exercise and act of thought. This 
exercise and act are amenable to the laws and conditions which make 
thought accurate and true. First are the laws of logic. It is certain 
that a doctrine involving a flagrant contradiction cannot maintain 
itself to the mind, that such contradiction undermines it and compels 
its reconstruction. The history of all dogmas more than amply demon- 
strates this. But logical laws are merely the formal conditions of 


thought. Its substance is experimental knowledge of the universe 
gained by astronomy, geology, chemistry, physiology; of the history 
of humanity, its origin and evolution, gained by historical criticism, and 
of the mental life of man, gained from psychology. When we measure 
the distance which from all these points of view lies between our whole 
conception of things and that of the ancients, or even that of the Middle 
Ages ; when we recognise the necessary dependence of the religious 
notions of the past upon the conception then dominant, we perceive that 
it will no longer suffice for theology to make a few corrections of detail 
in the old dogmatic, but that its duty is to proceed deliberately to recon- 
struct the entire edifice in the style of the present. 

The intellectual form of a doctrine is derived from the scientific 
mind, but what makes a doctrine religious and Christian is the reli- 
gious and Christian experience which explains and interprets it. This 
element of moral order is the common basis of doctrine, both old and 
new. Any doctrine which is not rooted in this common basis is by that 
very fact outside of the Christian religion. Therefore, side by side 
with the scientific spirit necessary to the theologian is this personal 
experience with which his entire thought, his entire life, must be inwardly 
animated. He can be a Christian thinker only on this condition. 

I am not ignorant of the fact that to souls who are strangers to this 
inner life the words Christian experience represent only something vague 
and intangible. St. Paul was right when he said that the psychical or 
carnal man cannot comprehend the things of the Spirit of God. The 
reproach that this is all mysticism cannot be turned aside. The theolo- 
gian must accept it resolutely and make of it, certainly not a title to 
glory, but the very reason for his existence and work. Far from being 
vague and obscure. Christian experience, to everyone who is conscious 
of it, is something morally very clear, accurately determined, which 
each finds, not only in himself, but in everyone whose consciousness has 
been awakened to the same life. He finds it in the personal life of every 
Christian, great and smallj illustrious and obscure, in every age ; in the 


collective soul of all Christendom. This experience first of all took place 
in the consciousness of Jesus Christ, and from him has been shed abroad 
in every conscience which has a sense both of spiritual misery and of rec- 
onciliation with the Father by faith in the good news of his infinite love. 
This wholly religious and moral content of the filial consciousness of 
Christ constitutes and determines what is called in the language of 
Christianity the Spirit of Christ or the Spirit of God in the history 
of humanity. This Spirit imposes no definite doctrinal formula; it is 
a religious sense, a faculty of discernment inherent in Christian faith, 
enabling it accurately to appreciate and judge between all that in the 
present or the past is of its permanent essence, and all that is foreign or 
accessory to it. Outside of this inspiration the work of theology is as 
vain for the progress of religion itself as for the science of religion. 

Once again we touch the vital and substantial basis of Christianity. 
Here is the starting point of all the doctrines which theology may de- 
velop. In this principle they find their unity and become an organism. 
Of this organism we have now to trace the broad outlines. 



Unity; Its Organising Principle 

Toward the end of the eighteenth century, under the influence of super- 
naturalistic rationalism, a curious definition of Protestantism emerged. 
Aided by the Aristotelian categories of matter and form which had been 
cultivated since the Middle Ages, men began to talk of a material prin- 
ciple {principium salutis) and a formal principle {principium cog- 


noscendi). The material principle of Protestant doctrine was the doc- 
trine of justification by faith, and its formal principle, the divine 
authority of Holy Scripture. This distinction was found to be so felici- 
tous and convenient that it has been current ever since in lecture courses 
and manuals of theology. 

Yet its late appearance might well have laid it open to suspicion, 
and still more so the variety of explanations which it has called forth, 
and which have only served to make it the more obscure. In the first 
place, is it not strange that we should be obliged to base a religious 
system upon two irreducible principles? Is it possible to give equal 
importance and religious value to a book and its contents, to the gospel 
of salvation brought by Christ and the method or instrument by which, 
historically, we have received it.'^ One of two things must be the case: 
either the doctrine of justification by faith is proclaimed by the Protes- 
tant Church as the sole legitimate interpretation of Scripture, and in 
that case the interpretation of Scripture is fixed once for all by this 
Church, and is binding upon the conscience, and we are in very Cathol- 
icism; or else, the authority of Scripture remaining, its interpretation 
is still free, and in that case, as the text is capable of various inter- 
pretations, at least in certain parts, the authority of the Bible may 
be turned against the dogma of justification by faith. In either case 
Protestantism breaks down. 

There is another danger. It is easy for abstract and simplistic logic 
to make the truth of the gospel of salvation depend upon the divine 
authority of Scripture. The Bible then becomes the foundation of the 
doctrine, and the authority of the book becomes the true and highest 
object of faith; which leads to a fatal corruption and complete misap- 
prehension of the purely moral and religious nature of faith. This 
is the fundamental weakness of Protestant orthodoxy and the intellec- 
tualism which is its mark. Shall the faith which saves depend upon a 
theoretical demonstration — ^which indeed it is impossible to furnish — 
that the Bible is the very work of God? May I not receive the good 


news of divine pardon until I shall have been convinced of the divine 
infallibility of the books which announce it? Is it possible to maintain 
the contention that faith in the divinity of the Bible must be the neces- 
sary preliminary and the basis of all the Christian's religious notions, his 
assurance of salvation, his hope, and the communion of his soul with 
God? Is not this a reversal of things, and does it not demand that the 
nature of faith shall have changed since the time when there was as 
yet no New Testament, and since the Reformation, when Luther declared 
that Scripture is the servant, not the Master, and hesitated not to appeal 
from the servant to the Master in every place where Scripture seemed 
to him not to render faithfully the Master's word and thought? 

We rightfully value the Bible, because it is a precious and provi- 
dential means of making and keeping objective to piety the person and 
work of Christ in history. But for how many souls in primitive times 
was this office, which the Bible now renders to us, filled by the preaching 
of missionaries, and since that time by the continuous witness of the 
Church ! How many souls have been saved by the gospel without the 
Scriptures ! By definition, a means cannot be an absolute thing ; it is 
a relation between a principle and its practical action. Neither the 
Bible nor the Church is a principle or a first cause; history shows that 
on the contrary these are consequences and effects. The Bible is at once 
the work of the Church and the fruit of the preaching of the gospel. 
It follows that, far from being that which authenticates and guarantees 
the truth of the gospel, it is from the gospel that both Bible and Church 
draw their original existence and present dignity. 

So much as to piety. As to doctrinal construction, to posit at its 
basis two distinct principles such as these is to introduce into its founda- 
tion a cause of disorganisation and incoherence. Placed upon the same 
level as the gospel of salvation, the dogma of the authority of Scrip- 
ture necessarily takes the first place in theology. Henceforth theology 
begins, as may be seen in all treatises of dogmatic orthodoxy, by a chap- 
ter on bibliology, in which the authority and origin of the sacred volume 


are established before any explanation of its contents is entered upon. 
On the one hand, dogmatic theology is held to resolve questions which 
belong solely to history and criticism, and on the other, the Bible having 
thus been treated of as the dogmatic foundation of all the rest, it is 
taken up again in the chapter on the Church, as a means of grace offered 
to piety. The edifice is thus constructed in the same style as Catholic 
theology and upon its very plan, with this difference: that the place 
held by the Church in one is taken by the Bible in the other. But in 
both cases the building totters to its fall, because in the last analysis 
it rests upon a petitio principii. 

Therefore we must give up finally and without regret this dualistic 
conception of the Christian religion. It is even more false than em- 
barrassing. It reverses and misapprehends the psychological and his- 
torical processes of the religious life and the true genesis of the doc- 
trine. As the object of theology is to explain the life of piety, it ought 
to be the ideal reflection of piety, and consequently it should find in life 
itself the organising principle of doctrine. From the point of view of 
experience this principle can be nothing other than the Christian con- 
sciousness. By this we mean, to use a modern expression, the state of 
soul, the fundamental religious purpose of the Christian, with the series 
of inward phenomena which constitute and of outward manifestations 
which reveal this purpose. This state of soul is essentially the same in 
individual Christians of all times, in the collective life of the Church, in 
the initial consciousness of the Christ, the originator and norm of all 
the others. 

To strip this common and permanent basis of the accidental forms 
which often hide it will be to discover and posit the principle whence we 
deduce the unity of doctrine and its entire inner organism. 



Analysis of the Christian Consciousness 

The Christian consciousness is constituted by the vital antithesis of 
two opposing sentiments; the sense of fatal separation from God, and 
the sense of blessed reconciliation with him. The reciprocal passage 
from one to the other is the constant activity, the very life, of the Chris- 
tian consciousness. The first of these sentiments represents its negative, 
the second its positive moment. In the first, the important thing is the 
deeply rooted sense of the misery and slavery of sin ; in the other the 
dominant fact is the sense of the love of Grod, the infinite mercy of the 
Father. The passage from one to the other is made by repentance, 
which is the judgment pronounced by ourselves upon ourselves and our 
past, and by faith, which is trust in God alone, this trust naturally be- 
coming the hope of eternal life. This interior conversion, in the expres- 
sive language of Scripture, is the passage from darkness to light, from 
death to life; and it is the religious consciousness of Christ which, be- 
coming ours, works in us this change, which is a true moral resurrection. 

Is not this state of consciousness a delusion? Certain mystics and 
Christian pietists may make it seem so, by their way of looking upon 
conversion as the entrance upon a state of moral quietude by a regenera- 
tion which they imagine to be final and perfect. 

No, the Christian consciousness is not a resting-place in a beatific 
state in which is no remnant of wretchedness, no memory of the past. 
The relation between the sense of sin and that of pardon and the new 
life is quite otherwise complex. In reality, these two sentiments are not 
successive, but simultaneous, and, as it were, continually present in one 
another; they condition one another, intensify one another, are recipro- 
cally developed, so that neither is truly itself without the other. Thus 
the sense of sin reappears, in the joy of pardon, under the form of a 
profound feeling of humility, which binds the Christian more closely 
than ever to the common misery of his fellow men, forces upon him 


a deeper sense of his entire solidarity with them, and impels him to take 
his part in their unceasing struggle, not deeming himself better than 
they. In like manner the sense of the love of God is already active in 
the sense of sin, awakening repentance and faith and giving rise to 
an ethical hope. 

Thus both sentiments persist and should persist in the Christian con- 
sciousness, ever reacting upon one another. The sense of sin is the more 
deeply felt in the soul which has known the love of God, and the love of 
God is the more appreciated by the soul which is humiliated and grieved 
over its incurable wretchedness. The Christian consciousness is there- 
fore not a state of repose; on the contrary it is a constant oscillation 
of the soul between the two poles of its life, a moral exercise of self- 
examination and self -judgment, of repentance and faith, by which the 
moral life is deepened and extended in every direction, and we become 
ever more acutely aware of the shallows of our nature, while rising ever 
higher upon the high places of consciousness. Is it not in fact true 
that the more the conscience becomes pure and high the more sensitive 
it is, and that it is the saints who sincerely deem themselves the worst of 
men? And it is only those who are still living in the moral unconscious- 
ness of a higher animality who feel evil neither in themselves nor out- 
side of themselves, or who, feeling it, are indifferent to it. 

Let us then put away the idea that the Christian consciousness iso- 
lates the Christian, separates him from the rest of mankind, or sequesters 
him from the solidarity of the common destiny. Quite the contrary, 
the Christian consciousness is not essentially different from the moral 
consciousness ; both in different degrees are the work of the same Spirit 
of God in the soul of man. The first is the deepening and broadening 
of the second. The Christian, then, remains in the sphere of humanity. 
He lives in the same conditions, but with new resources; he fights the 
same battles, but with faith that victory is possible and in hope of 
obtaining it. 

The Spirit of God is power, action, an inward fire. The impulse 


which upbears the soul, and not the result attained, determines the value 
of its spiritual life. Thus it is impossible to stop at the simple antith- 
esis between the sense of sin and redemption, separation from God and 
reconciliation with him. Analysing once again the sense of sin and 
the state of rebellion against God, we quickly discover that here too 
is a duality of causes. Behind the will which makes the evil we feel the 
nature which inspires and makes it inevitable. Repentance, therefore, 
does not suffice ; the new birth is farther necessary, the birth of the man 
of the Spirit in the bosom of the natural man, that is to say, the trans- 
formation of the original nature, by which it gradually gives place to 
a new nature. 

In like manner, behind the moral conflict which sin institutes between 
man and God, there is another and a metaphysical cause separating them 
and setting them in opposition to one another, that is, the chasm which 
opens for the religious consciousness between the finite and the infinite, 
the ephemeral and the eternal, the weak creature of accident and the 
universal being. Now it is impossible to deny that this new antithesis 
attacks the foundation of the Christian consciousness and threatens 
sometimes to overwhelm it. Thenceforth, instead of two terms we have 
three, which superimpose themselves in consciousness, and form, as it 
were, steps of the ladder of life, each corresponding to an advance step 
in the religious consciousness. At the foot is the sense of the metaphysi- 
cal disproportion between man and God. On the second step is the 
sense of a flagrant conflict between sinful man and the just and holy God. 
On the third, the moral conflict is appeased and the metaphysical chasm 
is filled by the revelation of the infinite love by which God unites himself 
to man, becomes immanent in his weak being, and by that act raises 
him up and makes him live in God. 

Physiology teaches us that the human organism, after having passed 
through all forms of life, retains in its structure the marks of all these 
anterior forms. In the same way, at the depths of Christian conscious- 
ness there is something of all the phases through which humanity has 

passed, before attaining to that term of moral and religious develop- 
ment in which the very idea of religion, that is, of the perfect union 
of the divine and the human in Jesus Christ, becomes realised and per- 
fected. This entire evolution, taking place in the Christian conscious- 
ness, it is the duty of theology to explain, and by explaining to produce. 
This is why history in its turn ought to confirm and extend the conclu- 
sions of psychology. 


The Three Degrees of Religious Evolution 

Man has only three means of coming into association with his fellows 
or his gods — interest, law, and love. In social life he always obeys one 
of these three motives. 

Each of them, being founded upon the very nature of the human 
being, is legitimate in its time and order, and persists in the entire suc- 
cession, and until the completion of individual and social development. 
But one or another predominates in the divers phases of this develop- 
ment and characterises them. Thus the reign of the instinct of self- 
preservation corresponds with the life of sensation, needs, and appetites, 
which is first developed in the child and in humanity. Little by little 
emerges the idea of a law which ought to rule these tumultuous desires 
and appetites, and of a pact or covenant with equal and reciprocal obli- 
gations, to pacify and regulate the relations of men between themselves. 
This law and contract find their basis and consecration in the idea of 
justice. But this contract relation cannot be separated from the idea 
of force, for it seeks in force the highest sanction of obligation and the 
maintenance of the contract, which in the last analysis simply repre- 
sents an equilibrium of often opposed interests. Men face one another 
in opposition. They can be really united and unified only in love. At 
the highest point of the mental life two disinterested activities of the 
spirit blossom and bear fruit: the search for truth, loved and pursued 
for its own sake — and this search is the full enfranchisement of 


reason — and corresponding to it in the practical order, the gift of one's 
self, the faculty of finding one's self in others, and the pursuit of the 
universal and highest good, without mental reservation; and this as- 
piration of love is the full expansion of the life of the heart. Thus the 
life of the Spirit is fulfilled in that mysterious law by which it finds 
itself ever higher and richer the more entirely it gives and sacrifices 
itself; and this is the high reconciliation of the principles of individ- 
ualism and socialism, which in the lower grades of life are irreconcilably 

Properly understood, religion is only a social bond between man and 
the superior powers upon whom he feels his own existence to depend. 
Necessarily, therefore, the religious sentiment, as soon as it appears, 
manifests itself under one of these three forms, and in the very order 
which has just been described. We have the religion of interest, the 
religion of law, the religion of love, or rather an indefinite number of 
mixtures of these three types, which can be absolutely distinguished only 
by abstract thought. This the history of religion shows, by the course 
and the more important phases of its development. 

In the beginning, what does the uncivilised man do who believes him- 
self to be surrounded and dominated by mysterious powers, spirits, or 
demons, from which he believes that he has equally everything to fear 
and everything to hope.'' He seeks either to win them as auxiliaries, or 
to protect himself against their ill-will. Formulas of magic, incanta- 
tion, and gifts offered under the forms of sacrifice, serve him to command 
the will of the god or to secure its good graces. What then is the reli- 
gious relation in this first degree, if not the relation of interest or selfish- 
ness between two unequal powers.? The man of sensation is above all 
things impressed by strength, and among his gods, it is their force which 
is the object of his adoration. The Homeric Zeus is the first among 
gods only because by himself alone he is physically stronger than aU 
the others together. 

But man tends to escape from the arbitrary and capricious mani- 


festations of dreaded occult powers, and he succeeds on the day when 
by the very opposition and respect of reciprocal interests he rises to 
the idea of a compact, a law, and as a result, at the notion of justice. 
This idea of justice commands the divinity as well as man; the god and 
his adorer are equally held to obey the law that intervenes between them. 
Furthermore, God being always the ideal of man, the will of a righteous 
God must itself be the law of righteousness, and to establish a favourable 
bond, a blessed harmony between God and man, the latter, renouncing 
magic and self-interested sacrifices, has only to lift up to him pure hands, 
and to fulfil his law ; that is to say, his will. Thus morality enters 
religion and transforms the religious relation. That which man now 
adores is force subjected to the law of righteousness. The strong God, 
^N, has become the holy God, the God of the compact, the avenger of 
violated law, mn\ 

But in this second degree a far more tragic contradiction appears 
in the religious consciousness, and constrains it to rise still higher, and 
undergo a last transformation. In the religions of nature man trembled 
before the felt disproportion of strength between the divine beings and 
himself. Now he trembles for another reason. When he has violated 
the law of righteousness he feels the shudders of remorse, the terror of 
that condemnation which awaits him at the tribunal of the judge who 
cannot be deceived. The moral man becomes the prey of a painful and 
humiliating experience; he ought to do right and he does wrong. The 
generous impulse which upbears him toward the ideal which he has con- 
ceived seems to have no other effect than to make him feel how heavy and 
invincible are the chains which weigh him down. This is what the Chris- 
tian consciousness calls the sense of sin, which not only separates the 
bad man from the holy God, but puts the two in tragic conflict, making 
the man a guilty rebel against him whose eye is too pure to behold 
iniquity without destroying it. 

In the early stages, the man given over to the double sentiment of 
his weakness and the unlimited power of God felt himself to be separated 


from him by a sort of metaphysical abyss, into which he vainly cast 
all the imaginations of his fancy without filling it up, and which seemed 
to grow deeper the more he reflected upon it. This is the incommensur- 
able antithesis between th6 finite and the infinite, between weakness and 
strength, the ephemeral and the eternal, the insignificant creature and 
the universal and perfect being. 

In vain does man attempt to bring together the opposing terms 
of the great antithesis; he succeeds only in annihilating each by the 
other. If he energetically posits the finite and its phenomenal forms, he 
is shut up in empirical atheism. If he insists upon ideas of infinity of 
eternal substance, the absolute, he is lost in pantheism. And this impo- 
tence of theoretic thought to reconcile dialectically the two terms is only 
the ideal expression of the practical impotence of the man of sensation 
to take hold in his weakness upon the omnipotence of the eternal being. 

Traditional metaphysics, idealistic or spiritualistic, operating upon 
these logical antitheses, comes to recognise that its attempted work of 
conciliation is vain ; but it still fails to perceive the reason. It does not 
see that these abstract notions of finite and infinite being, of particular 
and ephemeral, universal and eternal, far from being the highest and 
richest notions of the mind, are its lowest and most denuded ; that they 
belong in the outermost category of the reason, that of quantity, and 
correspond in reality to the most elementary religious consciousness — 
that of natural religions. In fact, do not all these religions logically 
end in a mythological polytheism, which at the first breath of rational 
criticism changes into a mocking atheism or a speculative pantheism? 

To this first stage belongs also that vague sentiment of absolute 
dependence which Schleiermacher erroneously makes the fundamental 
characteristic of the Christian consciousness. No doubt the Christian 
still trembles before the majesty of the formidable power revealed to 
liim in the spectacle of nature ; no doubt he experiences the sense of the 
nothingness of his being and the infinite distance which separates him 
from the unknown God ; but this is only a moment of his inner life, and 


far from finding in it the basis of his consciousness, this overwhelming 
sense only quickens in him the desire to escape from it, and the joy of 
at once overcoming by faith the anguish of this dualism. 

The first sense of deliverance and joy which man experiences is when 
the moral law, the law of righteousness, welling up from the depths of 
his being, bears him above this contact with blind and brutal forces of 
nature, and he hails it as at once the essence of his own being and that 
of the divine being. Then a true kinship is established between man 
and God; then the dialogue may begin between them, and a covenant of 
alliance founded upon morality may be established between them. At 
this second step moral conceptions emerge in theology : law, liberty, 
eflPort of the will in man ; holiness, righteousness, reward or punishment 
in God. But can final harmony be realised in this legal order.'' The 
law awakens the consciousness of sin, and sin creates in the human con- 
sciousness between the righteous God and the sinful man a new chasm 
still deeper than the first. In vain does man seek to close it by throwing 
into it expiations, good works, and good resolutions: in all cases the 
religion of law necessarily ends, as in Judaism, in a strict and super- 
ficial Pharisaism, or, as in the pagan world, in moral despair or the vain 
negation of the duty of righteousness. 

Thus the religion of law no more than the religion of nature can 
save the man — that is, establish his union with the principle of his own 
being, and realise his harmony both with God and the world. 

These experiences having been made and repeated wherever the reli- 
gion of law succeeded the religion of nature, the time was fulfilled. In 
Jesus of Nazareth appeared a third form of the human religious con- 
sciousness, the supreme form everywhere announced and prepared for by 
the spirit of reformers and prophets as well as by the plaints and hopes 
of pious souls, and which since Jesus has become a living Christian con- 
sciousness in the bosom of humanity. In the religious consciousness and 
personal piety of Christ the religious relation was once again trans- 
formed. It no longer rests upon power nor upon law and the resulting 


covenant, but upon a new sentiment, love. Love fills up the metaphysi 
cal distance and the moral chasm opened by sin ; it brings together and 
unites that which was divided; it levels mountains and raises valleys, 
causes oppositions to disappear, reconciles antinomies, frees man from 
the burden of nature and of his own sin. Feeling himself loved without 
conditions, and in his turn loving without reserve, the orphan finds a 
father, the sinner finds pardon, and feels springing up in the depths of 
his being a new life of power, hope, and joy. This is what the Christian 
finds in the filial consciousness of Jesus Christ, which henceforth becomes 
his own consciousness. And this is why Jesus of Nazareth was not only 
the Messiah and Saviour of his people, but also of all peoples and all 
men. The religious evolution which took place in him took place in 
the very bosom and for the profit of all humanity. 

The God who was first revealed as the strong God, El, then as the 
God who guards the compact of alliance, JaJiveh, is at last revealed in 
the soul of Christ, and since then reveals himself in every believer as the 
Father God. This is the mysterious and fecund work of his Spirit, 
active in nature and in the heart of man. 

To these successive revelations of God man has each time made the 
response which each inspired. To the manifestation of force he replied 
by interested sacrifices or magical prayers ; to the manifestation of 
righteousness he replied by expiations and works; to the manifestation 
of love he replied by faith alone, that is to say, an act of confidence and 
the unreserved gift of the heart. 

Such are the profound stratifications of the Christian consciousness, 
corresponding to those which history discovers in the religious evolution 
of humanity. Can theology have a higher or more beautiful mission 
than to learn to know them by following the very movement which 
brought them into existence? 



Construction of the System 

All this being so, the system of Christian doctrine is found to consist 
of three stages, proceeding one from the other, and developing in an 
ascending movement toward the realised religious ideal, the full and 
eternal union of the soul with God. 

The first stage brings to light the concepts which are derived from 
elementary religious experience, the religion of nature, explains how 
the antithesis between the finite and the infinite is brought to conscious- 
ness, and why, when consciousness stops here, it is impossible to bridge 
over the distance between the two terms. In this stage no proof can be 
found of the existence of God ; no metaphysical idea of God can be con- 
structed nor can the dogmas of creation and Providence be logically 
completed. We may not then hope to find in these elementary abstract 
notions any basis upon which the Christian doctrine can be built; but 
we do find in them the starting point of the Christian life and thought, 
which will together be developed under the stern incentive of ex- 

In like manner, with the appearance of the moral life, the religious 
consciousness becomes enriched with new elements; the standpoint of 
thought is raised; new antinomies start up and as yet fail to find their 
solution. It is no longer the antithesis between the finite and the in- 
finite; it is now that of the will, subject both to the flesh and to the 
moral law — that daughter of the Spirit of life — to the sin of man and 
the justice of God. A new world, more sublime and less obscure than 
that of physical nature, unfolds itself to reflective man, a higher region 
upon which the light shines fitfully, and in which, as on a day of tem- 
pest, despair and prayer engage in a conflict through which he will irre- 
sistibly attain to the third stage — the religion of redemption by love. 

The following table shows the coherent and progressive system of 
Christian doctrine which it is the duty of theology to elaborate. 



The religion of nature, or the elementary consciousness of God. 
Metaphysical opposition between God and man. 

1. Antithesis between the finite and the infinite. Its relative value. 
Its irreductibility. 

2. Criticism of the philosophical proofs of the existence of God. 
Their irremediable weakness. 

3. Impossibility of logically constructing the idea of God and de- 
termining liis metaphysical attributes. 

4. History and criticism of the dogma of creation. 

5. History and criticism of the dogma of Providence. 

6. Physical evil the condition of the birth and progress of the spir- 
itual life. 


The religion of law, or the moral cognisance of God. Moral oppo- 
sition between God and man. 

1 . Moral man ; his origin and the conditions of his development. 

2. The moral law. 

3. Moral freedom. 

4. The moral ideal found in God. The moral attributes of God. 

5. The moral poverty of man. 

6. The psychological notion of sin. 

7. The religious notion of sin. 

8. Theoretical and practical contradiction between the two notions. 
Moral despair. 



The religion of love, or the Christian cognisance of God, Salvation 
by redeeming love. 


1. The historic human consciousness of Christ. His teaching, work, 
and death the revelation of redeeming love. 

2. History and criticism of the dogma of expiation. 

3. Justification by faith, sanctification, and eternal life. 


1. The Church. 

2. The Church's means of action, preaching of the gospel and rites 
called sacraments. 

3. The relation of the Christian to his Church. 

4. The destiny of the various churches. 


1. The Kingdom of God, or the accomplishment of individual and 
collective salvation. 

2. History and criticism of traditional eschatological doctrines. 

3. The Kingdom of God and human history. 

4. The future life. 


Metaphysical Dogmas 

1. Predestination. 

2. Christology. 

3. The Trinity. 

4. God all and in all. 

Thus comprehended, theology abides in its own domain, which is the 
study and explanation of Christian experience. But though it has a 
special task, and is consequently independent, it is not isolated; it re- 
mains open to the action of all the various sciences, and carries on con- 
tinual commerce with them. It touches by its origin upon primitive 


anthropology and by its conclusions upon sociology, or the theory of 
the development of the life of individuals and societies. From the view- 
point to which it is lifted by Christian religious experience, it necessarily 
tends to see things whole; to find a total conception of the universe 
( Weltanschauung). 

Naturally, it pursues the ideal of truth, not a conclusion which it 
has dogmatically imposed; and to arrive at this ideal it needs the col- 
laboration of all other sciences. It must stand ready to broaden its 
horizon to admit all those discoveries which are continually being made 
in every field of research, and which either enlarge or make more accurate 
the inquest of humanity upon the universe. Theology is thus no more 
than any other a closed and completed science; it repeats with ever 
deeper conviction and sincerity the apostle's word : " We know in part." 
It is carrying on a work which needs long generations of workmen. It 
is never other than tentative, and he who writes these lines knows better 
than any other that his long and difficult enterprise is only a prelim- 
inary essay If he does all that in him lies to bind up his sheaf, it is 
that he may give to others an idea of the fertility of the field in which 
he has laboured, and thus attract to it new labourers stronger and more 
able than himself. Never for a moment does he shut his eyes to the fact 
that his sheaf, so painfully and perhaps prematurely bound, must be 
unbound again to receive, perhaps ears grown at an earlier day and 
which he ought not to have overlooked, and surely ears of a new harvest 
not yet come to maturity. 

Above all, he loves to think that the labour of philosophical reflec- 
tion, however indispensable it may be, is nevertheless not the essential 
thing in the order of the Christian life; that there is something more 
urgent, more necessary, than to explain the experiences of piety, and 
that is to make them. At the close of this long effort of research and 
meditation, he is not exempt from a certain lassitude of mind and heart ; 
and he lays down the pen with the prayer of our old Comeille: 


O Dieu de v^rit^, pour qui seul je soupire, 
Unis moi done k toi par de forts et doux noeuds. 
Je me lasse d'ouir, je me lasse de lire, 

Mais non pas de te dire: 

'C'est toi suel que je veux.'" 

"O God of truth, whom only I desire, 
Bind me to thee by ties as strong as sweet; 
I tire of bearing, of reading too I tire, 
But not of saying, ' Thee, God, alone I need.' ** 




Vide E. Scherer, "De I'autorit^ en matifere de foi" (Revue de Th4ol., de 
Strasbourg, 1850, vol. i. p. 65); "La critique et la foi," 1850. P. Jalaguier, " Le 
t^moignage de Dieu, base de la foi chretienne," Toulouse, 1851 ; " Introduction a la 
dogmatique," Paris, 1877, especially chap. vii. C. Rabaud, " Essai sur les rapports 
de la foi et de I'autorite," 1851. A. Vinet, " L'^ducation, la famille et la soci6t^," 
1855; "Melanges," 1869. J. F. Asti^ "Esprit de Vinet," 1861. Debry, " De 
I'autorite en raati^re de foi," 1882. J. Lafon, "De I'autorite en matifere de foi," 
1885. Gretillat, " Expos6 de theol. syst6matique," i., 1885, et ii., 1892. S. Martineau, 
"The Seat of Authority," 1891. L6opold Monod, "Le problJsme de I'autorite," 3d 
edition, Paris, 1891. E. Men^goz, " L'autorit6 de Dieu," Paris, 1892. E. Doumergue, 
" L'autorite en matifere de foi," 1894. A. Boegner, " Quelques reflexions sur I'autorite 
en matifere de foi," Rev Chr., 1894. H. Bois, " La connaisance religieuse," Paris, 
1894, chap, xiv., " De rautorite," Darlu, " De I'individualisme," Revue de mita- 
physiqufi et de morale, 1898. A. Vidalot, " De I'autorite d'aprfes Joseph de Maistre," 


Thomas Aquinas, "Summa Theol.," Pars I a, queest. 1, art. 1 and 2: Neeessarium 
igitur fuit prceter philosophicas disciplinas quce per rationem investigantur, sacram 
doctrinam per revelationem haberi. Art. 2: Sacra doctrina est scientia ex principiis 
notis lumine superioris scienticB, quae Dei et beatorum. Art. 8: Argumentari ex 
auctoritate est maxime proprium hujus doctrinoe, eo quod principia ejus per revela- 
tionem habentur et sic oportet quod credatur auctoritati eorum quibus revelatio facta 
est. This notion of theology and of the method of authority remains immutable in 
the Roman Catholic Church. In his " Praelectiones Theol." (1, p. 2) Perrone also 
says: Divina enim revelatione in tuto posita atque ecclesice catholicce auctoritate 
firmiter constituta facilis erit via ad ea omnia quae hinc sponte quodammodo fluunt. 
The Scholastics of Protestantism replace the authority of the Church by that of the 
Bible, but their conception and practice of theological method are the same. It is 
alwaye the method of authority. Perrone, " Theol. Dogm.," says : " The sole rule 
which Jesus Christ willed to leave to converted peoples or those still to be converted, 
to fix in an immediate manner what they must believe and do, was the public, per- 
petual, and living authority of the Church. Whence it follows that the system of 



authority is in such manner hound up with Revelation that we must reject all revela- 
tion ... or admit a certain, sure, and even perpetual method by which it is 
possible for men to know those truths and precepts without fear of misapprehension. 
It is the established authority of God himself." 


Vinet, "Melanges," p. 97: "Society forgets that, respectable and necessary as 
she is, man was not created exclusively for her; that she is as much the instrument 
of the individual as the individual is her instrument; that Providence perhaps has 
not so much committed man to the care and perfecting influences of society as society 
to the care and perfecting influences of man; that humanity is real and living only 
in the individual; that he alone lives, believes, hopes, obeys; that he therefore is the 
true object of the divine attention and judgment; that not society but the man must 
appear, and already does daily appear, before the eternal tribunal. . . A vivid 
belief in another world and serious expectation of it would suffice to awaken in souls 
that individuality which is remedilessly dying out in the absence of this immense 
interest. . ." Nothing is more true. But except we admit that death breaks all 
the bonds of solidarity which here below attach the individual to the family and his 
race, individual salvation can never be the final end of divine Redemption. That end 
is shown, in the Gospels, to be the Kingdom of God realised at once on earth and in 
heaven, and by this religious notion social aspiration and individual autonomy are 
reconciled in a perfection whence will flow universal happiness and liberty in the life 
of love. 


There have been two Gallicanisms: that of Pierre d'Ailly, Gerson, the University 
of Paris, the Assembly of Bourges in 1439, and that of Thomassin, Bossuet, and the 
Assembly of the Clergy in 1682. The former was much more radical than the latter. 
Not only did the Councils of Pisa and Constance judge and depose Popes, but they 
set up as a principle that by natural, divine, and canonical law the Pope is subject 
to the Council General, which has the power to judge and condemn him. Much 
more: the authority of the Church and the Councils remains entire, even without the 
Pope. Gerson, Opera, edit. Dupin, 1706, II: " De Unitate Ecclesiastica," " De 
Auferibilitate Papae." Nicolas de Cusa, " De Concordantia Catholica," 1437. V. 
Lenfant, " Hist, du Concile de Pise," and " Hist, du Concile de Con*tance," 1724 
and 1727, etc. 


This is the contention of the Assembly of the Clergy of France, 1682. The fourth 
declaration of this Assembly expressly submits the use of apostolic power to the rule 
of the ancient canons of the Church, and is thus expressed: Though the Pope have 


the principal part in questions of faith, and though his decrees concern all the 
churches and each church in particular, yet is his judgment not incontrovertible, unless 
the consent of the Church have been given. 

These Galilean maxims were reaffirmed with energy by the Synod of Pistola 
(1786). Pope Pius VI reproduced in the Constitution " Auctorem Fidei " the con- 
demnations with which his predecessors. Innocent XI, as early as 1682, and Alexander 
VllI, in 1698, had already pronounced upon them. 

'ITie policy of the Roman See since the Council of Trent has been to set aside 
every teaching contrary to the absolute sovereignty and personal infallibility of the 
Pope, and to make him supreme and triumphant in fact, before proclaiming him such 
in law. The final result was inevitable. 


Gregory VII, Letters. He not only claimed infallibility and absolute sovereignty 
over the whole earth, but even, for the person of the Pope, absolute sanctity. It was 
logical and psychological. The advocates of infallibility later abandoned the last 
postulate, doubtless fearing that the lives of certain Popes would vitiate the entire 
dogma. And yet, how is it possible to understand the exercise of such power over 
all humanity, and a complete infallibility of inspiration, without sanctity? Boniface 
VIII, Bull " Unam Sanctam Ecclesiam." Thomas Aquinas developed the principal 
attributes of the Pope: Summas Pontifex, caput ecclesice, cura ecclesice universalis, 
plenitudo potestatis, potestas determinandi novum symbolum (" Summa Theol.," sec. 
3, quaest. 1, art, 10). Bellarmine, " De Summo Pontifice Capite Totius Militantis 
Ecclesiae," in the " Disputations." Catechismus Romanus of Pius V. These are the 
principal precursors of the dogma of infallibility. 


Leo XIII, Encycl., " Immortale. Dei," 1885. Non absimili modo Pius IX, ut sese 
opportunitas dedit, ex opinionibus falsis quce maxime valere ccepissent plures notavit 
casdemque postea in unum cogi jussit [Syllabus] ut in tanta errorum collusione 
haberent catholici homines quod sine offensione sequerentur . . . Itaque in tarn 
difficili rerum cursu catholici homines, si nos ut oportet audierint, facile videbunt 
qucB sua cujusque sint tarn in opinionibus quam in factis officia. Et in opinando 


8IN0UL0S, etc. 

He condemns himself to understand nothing from the preaching of Jesus who 


fails to set it over against the Messianic hopes to which it responded, and within their 
framework. In the last two centuries before the Christian era a very curious apoc- 
alyptic chronology had been elaborated in the midst of Judaism. The last period 
of the world's history was to be inaugurated by the reappearance of the prophet 
Elijah and the coming of the Messiah. All the New Testament views of the future 
presuppose this chronology. Jesus made no exception in this respect. Otherwise he 
could not have believed himself to be the Messiah, nor have announced the Messianic 
kingdom as shortly to appear. Matt. iii. 1-12, iv. 14,-16, v. 1-10, vii, 13, 21-23, viii. 
11-13, xi. 12-15, xvi. 13-28, xvii. 11-13, xix. 27-30, xxi. 33flF, xxiv. 3, 15, 29-31, 37, xxv. 
1-13, 31-46, xxvi. 64. Cf. parallel passages in the other Gospels. See also in the 
Fourth Gospel, John v. 25, xiv, 28, xvi. 16-23. It was a general belief that the age 
then present, 6 aluv oiros, was drawing to a close, and that the future age, 6 aluv mA- 
Xwf, was about to begin. 


The word iKK\ri<Tla, church, is found only twice upon the lips of Jesus and In 
only one Gospel, Matt. xvi. 18, xviii, 17. Now these two texts certainly belong to the 
last revision, to the last Greek working over of our Gospel of Matthew, which at 
the earliest dates from the last ten or fifteen years of the second century. The 
second of these texts is therefore not more authoritative than the first; but it creates 
no great diflBculty, because the word " church " here signifies simply the assembly of 
the brethren, the Christian synagogue. Only, the fact of a disciplinary procedure 
so formally established discloses an origin posterio. to Jesus, and a certain duration 
of ecclesiastical life. (Cf. 2 Cor. xiii. 1, 2; 1 Cor. v. 13; 1 Tim. v. 19.) Of far other 
significance is the text of Matt. xvi. 18. It is the famoua T« «8 Petrus: "Thou art 
Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not 
prevail against it." This text is wanting in the parallel passages of Mark and Luke, 
and this omission is incomprehensible if these Evangelists had found it in the first 
loffia of Matthew or the first apostolic tradition of Peter, which Mark is said to have 
reproduced. Such a declaration is absolutely incomprehensible in the totality and 
the internal coherence of the Messianic teaching of Jesus. Furthermore it does not 
appear until nearly sixty or seventy years after his death, at which time the ecclesi- 
astical legend as to the functions and the primacy of Peter had begun to be formed. 
Here we have its first bud. The Catholic theory of the Church is made to rest 
definitively upon a play upon words, made early, no doubt, vnth reference to the sur- 
name given by Jesus to Peter, and the apostolic work by him accomplished. Vide A. 
R6ville, "J^sus de Nazareth," 1897, ii. p. 220, 499. 


No single apostle concerned himself with what we call posterity; none wrote a 
line, prepared a liturgy, founded an institution, ecclesiastic or other, for the future. 


The future was closed to them. They believed themselves to be living in the last days 
of the world. A great number of things which surprise us in their conduct or their 
ideas, community of goods, indifference to persecutions and menaces, disdain even 
of marriage and other earthly blessings, are intelligible in the light of their apoc- 
alyptic hopes. Acts ii. 1; Thess. iv. 15-17; 2 Thess. ii. 1-12; Gal. i. 4; 1 Cor, vii. 29, 
XV. 51, 52, xvi. 22; Rom. viii. 17-25; Col. iii. 1-4; Phil. iii. 11, iv. 5; Heb. i. 2; Jas. iv. 
7, 8; 1 Pet. i. 5, v, 4, 10; 2 Pet. iii. 8-11; 1 John ii. 18; Rev. i. 1, 3, xxu. 7, 12, 20. 


Never, in the New Testament, is the conception of the Church confused with that 
of the Kingdom of Heaven. The word, iKKXrjffla, the Greek translation of ^np 
or rnV, first designated particular groups of believers (Rom. xvi. 4, 5, 16; 1 Cor. i. 
2, iv. 17, vii. 17, xi. 18, etc.), then the totality of these groups considered as the body 
of Christ, animated by his spirit, continuing his preaching and his sufferings, to be 
glorified with him in the day of his appearing. 

In the Epistles to the Ephesians and the Colossians the notion of the Church is 
still farther idealised till it becomes a sort of metaphysical or Gnostic entity, destined 
to manifest in visible manner the plenitude of the life of Christ, as Christ manifested 
the plenitude of the life of God ( irX^pw/xa rod Xpiffrov). Eph. i. 22, 23, iii. 10, 
21, iv. 12-16, V. 23-27, 32; Col. i. 18, 24. Cf. ii. 10. 


This tendency of the ideal Church to translate itself into fact in the single and 
weU-ordered constitution of a visible Church is very apparent in the Pastoral Epistles 
which make the transition in the early years of the second century between the 
apostolic communities dominated by inspiration and the Catholic Church about to 
appear. Apostle and prophet were to be replaced by the bishop, and the communion 
of the Spirit by obedience to the rule of faith. 1 Tim. iii. 1-7, 16, iv. 6flF.; 2 Tim. 
i. 13, ii. 1, iii. 14if . ; Tit. i. 5flF. 


In the Acts of the Apostles and Paul's Epistles Antioch and Jerusalem already 
appear, each as the rival metropolis of a Christianity of very different physiognomy 
and tendency. Upon James and his predominant part in the formation of the Jerusa- 
lem church see Acts xv. ISflF., xxi. 18; Gal. ii. 9, 12 (nvai dirb 'Iokw/3ou ); Clementine 
Homilies, "Letter from Peter to James"; Hegesippus in Eusebius, H. E. II. 2:1. 
This office of head of the church helps us to understand why Josephus mentions 
James's condemnation and martyrdom. It was an event for the entire city (Ant. 
XX. 9, 1). 

The conflict between Peter and Paul in the church at Antioch was a veritable 


scandal for the Fathers of the Church. We see by the counterpart of Paul's story 
in the Clementine Homilies what a din it made, and what bitternesses it left in 
Ebionite Christian circles. To do away with the scandal Clement of Alexandria 
advanced the theory that Paul's adversary at Antioch was not one of the Twelve, 
but a man of like name, a Cephas who was only one of the Seventy disciples 
(Eusebius, H. E. I. 12). Jerome gravely says that at bottom Peter and Paul were 
not dissentient, but in perfect accord. They had simply resolved to act a little play, 
before agreed upon, to enlighten the Judaisers, and Peter, out of humility, had 
accepted the part of devil's advocate. Upon which Augustine protests in the name 
of the sincerity of the sacred writers, and prefers to confess a weakness in Peter. 
The history of Catholic exegesis of the text in the Epistle to the Galatians is extremely 


Gal. iii. 6-14; 1 Cor. ix. 8ff.; Rom. iii. 25; Heb. v., vii., ix.; Clement of Rome, 
1 Cor. 40. Assimilation between the Levitical worship and hierarchy on one side, and 
Catholic worship and clergy on the other, marches rapidly from the beginning to the 
close of the second century. From the time of Tertullian the name sacerdos, Gen- 
tile and Jew in origin, but not Christian, passes current to designate the bishops and 
elders of the earlier times. The meaning of sacerdos even becomes the same as the 
word priest, which has an entirely different origin and at first designated an entirely 
different function, that of elder or senior. Diestel, " Die Geschichte des A. T. in der 
Christlichen Kirche," 1869. 


Irenaeus, "Adv. Haer.," iii. 24: In ecclesia disposita est communicatio Christi, id 
est spiritus sanctus et scala adscensionis ad Deum. In ecclesia enim posuit Deus 
apostolos, prophetas, doctores et universam reliquam operationem Spiritus, cujus 
non sunt participes omnes, qui non currunt ad Ecclesiam sed semetipsos fraudant a 
vita. . . . Ubi enim Ecclesia ubi et spiritus Dei et ubi spiritus Dei illic Ecclesia, 
et omnis gratia. The thought of Irenaeus still maintains a certain equilibrium between 
the Church, criterion of the Spirit, and the Spirit, criterion of the Church, and still 
permits up to a certain point the judging of the Church by the truth of the Spirit 
as well as the judging of the Spirit by the authority of the Church. It is a moment 
of transition between Justin Martyr — who making faith in Christ as logos of God 
the sign that one belongs to the Christian Church, included with it even pagan 
philosophers like Socrates and Heraclitus (1st Apol. 46) — and Cyprian, who made 
connection with the visible Church the sign of Christian faith. " De Unit. Eccl.," 4flF. 


Vide Tertullian, " De praescriptione Haereticorura." Vincent de Lerins, "Com- 
monitorium pro Cath. Fidei Antiquitate et Universitate adv. Profanas Omnium 


Haeres. Novitates." Bellarmine, " De Verbo Dei." R, Simon: "Hist. crit. des prin- 
cipaux commentateurs du N. T.," 1693. Bossuet, " Hist, des Variations." " Confer- 
ence avec Claude." " Avertissements aux Protestants." " Defense de la Tradition 
et des Saints-Peres." Moehler, " Symbolik," 9th edition, 1884. Newman, " Essay 
on the Development of the Christ. Doctrine," 1848. Perrone, " Praelect. Theologicae," 
t. i. and ii. 18. J. Pedezert, " Le temoignage des P^res," 1892. Thiersch, " Vor- 
lesungen iib. Katholicismus u. Protestantismus," 2d. edition, 1848. F. C. Bauer, " Der 
Gegensatz des Kath. u. Protest.," 1836. Holtzmann, " Kanon u. Tradition," 1859. 
K. Hase, " Handb. der ev. Polemik," 5th edition, 1891. 

Literature: I. On the Catholic Conception of the Church: Cyprian, "De Uni- 
tate Ecclesiae." Augustine, " De Civitate Dei." Bossuet, " Sermon on the Unity of 
the Church." "Discourse on Universal History," Part Second, 16. Bellarmine, "De 
Ecclesia Militante." Catechismus Romanus. Perrone, " Praslectiones Theologicae," 
torn. I and V. Acta Concilii Vaticani, " Constitutio de Ecclesia," 1870. Leo XHI, 
" Encycl. de Unitate Ecclesiae." 

n. On the Messianic Expectationt of Jesus and His First Disciples; E. Reuss, 
" History of Christian Theology in the Apostolic Age." T. Colani, " J^sus Christ 
et les croyances messianiques de son temps." A. Wabnitz, " La notion du Royaume 
des cieux dans la pensee de Jesus." A. Immer, " Theologie des Neuen Testaments." 
C. Weizsecker, " Das apost. Zeitalter." Baldensperger, " Das Selbstbewusstsein 
Jesu," 2d edition. Joh. Weiss, " Die Predigt Jesu vom Reiche Gottes." Eug. Ehr- 
hardt, " Der Grundcharakter der Ethik Jesu im Verhaeltniss zu den messianischen 
HoflFnungen seines Volkes und zu seinem eigenen Messiasbewusstsein." C. Bruston, 
"La vie future d'apres saint Paul" (with supplements). H. Holtzmann, " Lehrbuch 
der neutestamentlichen Theologie." Edm. Stapfer, " Jesus Christ during his Min- 
istry." " The Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ." Fred Krop, " La pensee de 
J6sus sur la Royaume de Dieu" (see the bibliography, pp. 7-14). E. Men^goz, "Le 
salut, d'apres I'enseignement de Jesus-Christ." H. Wendt, " The Teachings of 
Jesus," 2d edition, Wilfred Monod, " L'Esperance Chr^tienne," 2 vols. 


Concil. Tr. Sess. IV. Decret de canon. Scripturis. S. Synodus hoc sibi perpetuo 
ante oculos proponens, ut, sublatis erroribus, puritas ipsa evanffelii in ecclesia con- 
servetur . . . perspiciensque hanc veritatem et disciplinam contineri in libris 
scriptis et, sine scripto, traditionibus, quce ex ipsius Christi ore ab apostolis acceptCB, 
aut ab ipsis apostolis, Spiritu Sancto dictante, quasi per manus traditce, ad nos usque 
pervenerunt ; orthodoxorum patrum exempla secuta, omnes libros tarn V. quam N. T. 
necnon traditiones ipsa^, turn ad fidem turn ad mores pertinentes, tanquam vel ore 
tenus a Christo, vel a Spiritu S. dictatas, et continue successione in ecclesia catholica 
conservatas, pari pietatis affectu ac reverentia suscipit et veneratur. 


Though the two authorities, of Scripture and of tradition, are put theoretically 
upon the same line, the first does in fact always stand in subordination to the second. 
Sess. IV, Decret. de edit, et usu sanct. Litterarum. 

That the Church by its tradition is mistress of the text of Scripture as of its 
interpretation is proved by the decision of the same council touching St. Jerome's 
translation of the Vulgate. The same Session and Decree: S. Synodus statuit et 
declorat, ut here ipua vetus et vulgata editio, qua longo tot soeculorum usu in ipsa 
eccleaia probata est, in publicis lectionibus, disputationibus, prcedicationibus , et expo- 
ritionibus pro authentica habeatur, et ut nemo earn rejicere, quovis prcBtextu, audeat 
vel prcBSumat. 


No one will here adduce Mark xvi. 16, which is part of a supplement to the Second 
Gospel, entirely foreign to Ihe primitive work. If Jesus uttered this saying, it is 
inexplicable that no apostle, no New Testament book, alludes to it. It will further- 
more be observed that baptism is rather presupposed as already existing than pre- 
scribed as something new in the words which Matthew puts into the mouth of the 
Risen Lord. See Conybeare, Zeitschr. f. neutest. Wissenschaft, 1901, pp. 285-288. 

From John iii. 22-26, curiously corrected in iv. 2, it appears that there was not 
unanimity as to the fact whether Jesus had himself baptised or simply ordered that 
those who came to him should be baptised. It seemed necessary to connect the 
apostolic custom with Jesus, and yet they hardly knew how. Jesus never spoke of 
any other baptism than that of suffering and death. Mark x. 38 and paral. 


Acts viii. 12-24, x. 44-48, xix. 1-6. It appears from these texts: 1, that baptism 
with water was considered incomplete without the baptism of the Spirit; 2, that the 
effusion of the Spirit came by the imposition of hands. In the eyes of Paul baptism 
of the Spirit alone made men Christians, by uniting them to Christ and to his body, 
which is the Church. Expressions like that of Titus iii. 5,SL6.?iovrpov iraXiyyevecrlai Kal 
ivaKaiPuaeojs irved/jLaroi aytov, and John iii. 5, iav /it) rit 7ei'v»755 i^ vSaroi Kal irvevfiaroi, 
(cf. xix. 34, 35, and 1 John v. 6), although they do not yet materialise baptism, yet 
assimilate water and the Spirit, and mark a point in the evolution of the notion of 


It seems evident that Paul in Rom. vi. 1-6; Gal, iii. 27; 1 Cor. vi. 11, x. 2; and 
even in Eph. v. 26, has a symbolic conception of baptism. This becomes clear from a 
close study of Col. ii. 11-12, precisely parallel. It is faith which unites us to Christ 
in baptism and raises us up with him, faith in the power of God who raised him from 
the dead; and we find the decisive proof that baptism is only a symbol in verse 11, 


where the apostle makes use of the figure of circumcision to express the same truth: 
iv (fi Kal irepierfi'/ierjTt irepirofii &x^ipovoi.-t)r(ff iv ry iircKSiiffet roO ciinaroq Tyj% aapKb^, iv rxi 
irepiTOfJ,^ Tov Xpurrov. 

The aflBrmation of 1 Pet. iii. 21 is also thoroughly spiritual: " Baptism doth now 
save you, not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the interrogation of a 
good conscience toward God." 

But even in the apostolic age we find traces of a contrary conception of baptism, 
as the indispensable condition and even the cause of salvation. Paul does not praise, 
but neither does he blame those who baptise for the benefit of the dead (1 Cor. xv. 
29), and he draws from the practice an argument for the resurrection. The rite 
was therefore believed to be necessary for those who would have part in the resur- 
rection, at least so far as the body was concerned. Fifty years later the Epistle of 
Barnabas said: " Its water is faithful," and again, "We descend into the water, full 
of sins and stains, and we come up from it laden with fruits in our heart." And 
Hennas, "Vis." iii. 3: ^ fwr; vfiuv Sii vdaroi iaibdi), koX <rw0'^(T€rai. Justin taught 
that to be baptised was synonymous with being regenerated, 1 Ap. 61. With Ter- 
tullian the Roman Catholic idea of baptism is well-nigh reached: "De Baptismo," 3. 


Rom. vi. 3-5; 1 Cor. i. 13; Gal. iii. 27; Acts. ii. 38, viii. 16, x. 48, xix. 5. There is not 
the slightest trace of any other formula. Cyprian remarked this peculiarity and gave 
its true explanation. Epist. LXXIII. 17, 18. The simple formula was employed in 
the case of Jews, who already knew the Father and had no need to be baptised in 
his name. The Roman Catechism seems also to admit the fact, and explain it by the 
purpose of the apostle to give more lustre to the name and person of Jesus Christ. 
" De Baptismo," 15, 16. Protestant exegetes have been more timid or less candid. 


Vide A. Hamack, art. " Apostol. Symbolum," Encyl. von Herzog u. Hauck, 3d 
edition, vol. i. The same, " Dogmengeschichte," vol. i. (English translation). Cas- 
par!, " Ungedruckte . . . Quellen zur Gesch. des Taufsymbols," 1866, 1869, 1875, 
1879. Hahn, " Biblioth. der Symbole." Zezschwitz, " System d. Katechetik." Swain- 
son, "The Nicene and Apostolic Creeds." M. Nicolas, " Le Symbole des ap. Essai 
Hist." Coquerel, " Histoire du credo." E. Chaponnifere, Art. " Symbole des ap." in 
Encyl. des sc. relig., vol. i. (McGiffert, " The Apostles' Creed," 1902, pp. 7, 100.) 


Gnosticism had a decisive part in the definition of the Catholic faith. Most of the 
articles of the symbol are directed against it, and it can be historically understood 


only in the light of this controversy. The unity of God, the aflBrmation that the 
Father is also the Creator of the heavens and the earth, are the contradiction of the 
dualism or the emanationism of the Gnosis. The description of the Christ as the 
only Son of God is a protest against a plurality of mediators. His birth, at once of 
the Holy Spirit and of the Virgin Mary, his crucifixion under Pontius Pilate, his death 
and burial, are noted in order to affirm the reality of the incarnation, the passion, 
and the death of the Son of God, and so to cut short all Docetism. The last judgment, 
the authority of the Catholic Church, the resurrection of the flesh, are due to the 
same cause. This interpretation may not be doubted when we read Ignatius, " Ad. 
Magn.," 11; "Ad. Ephes.," 7, 18; "Ad. Trail.," 9; "Ad. Smyrn.," 1, and Polycarp, 
" Ad Philipp.," 2 and 7, etc. Nothing can better show how everywhere and always 
tradition, even where most objective in appearance, is dependent upon the circum- 
stances in the midst of which it arises. The history of the Oriental churches, in 
their richer and more varying rules of faith, bears still more plainly the marks of suc- 
cessive theological controversies. We may, so to speak, date each one of them by 
means of its evident pre-occupations. 


Eusebius: H. E. III. 39: Papias wrote: OCik <TKv^au S^ <roi xal Saa irori iraph rwv 
irpec^xnipoiv *caXws efiaOof kuI KaXaJs ifivrjixSvevaa ffvyKarard^ai rats ipiir]velaii SiojScjSaioi^/uecos 
virip avTWP iX^Oeiav. . . . . el Brj vov Kal iraprjKoXovdrjKdji Tts to«i irpeff^VTEpoii ¥\6oi, roi>s 
tQv irpej^vT^pivv av^Kpivov X67oys- rC 'Avdpias ij ri Tlirpos elirey ^ rl ^IXiirnoi f) rl Qu^as fj 
'lixw/Soj ^ tI 'IwdwTjs ^ Mar^atos .... 5 re 'kpiarluv Kal 3 irpeffP^repoi 'ludvvrji, oi rod 
Kvplov p.adT)Tai, X^yovffiv. Ov yap ra iK t&v ^i/3X(cjv, to<tovt6v fie w<f>e\elv vveXdn^avov, Sffoy 
rd wapa fuxTTjs 0a>v^j Kal /ievoi/crijs. 

Tertullian, " De Praescript. Haeretic," 37; Si hcec ita se habent, ut Veritas nobis 
adjudicetur, quicumque in ea regula incedimus, quam ecclesia ab apostolis, apostoli 
a Christo, Chriittus a Deo tradidit, constat ratio propositi nostri definientis non esse 
admiltendos hwreticos ad inuendam de Scripturis provocationem, quos sine Scripturis 
probamus ad Scripturas non pertinere. It is the reasoning of a jurist, not of a his- 
torian. The enacted dogma is put in the place of interrogated history. 


Irenseus, Ibid., III. 1, 3. Et habemus enumerare eos qui ab apostolis instituti sunt, 
episcopi in ecclesiis et successores eorum usque ad nos. Then follows a list of bishops 
of Rome from Peter and Linus to Eleutherus. A little earlier Hegesippus, who was 
most concerned about the episcopal successions for the same reason of legitimacy, 
drew up another list of which we have not the whole (Eusebius, H. E. IV. 22). Similar 
lists, varying irreconcilably as to names, chronology, and length of episcopate, are 
found in Eusebius (" Chronicle" and " Eccl, Hist."), Hippolytus, Rufinus, Augustine, 


the Apostolic Constitutions, Liber Pontificalis, etc. It needs only to compare these 
lists for a moment, to perceive that they were made from traditional or legendary 
elements, diversely combined, until at last papal authority officially consecrated one 
which has no more verisimilitude than any of the others. See Lipsius, " Die Papst- 
verzeichnisse des Eusebius," etc. ; " Chronologic d. roemisch. Bischoefe," etc. A. 
Harnack, " Chronologie d. altchristl. Litteratur." " Die aeltesten Bischofslisten." 


Being the double testimony of the same apostolate, tradition and the Scriptures 
were in the eyes of Irenaeus of equal authority, " Adv. Haer.," III. 1, 1. TertuUian 
("De Praes. Haeret.," 29 and 38), Athanasius ("Oratio cont. Arian.," 1, 8; "Adv. 
Gent," 1), Augustine (" De Doctrina Christ.," i. 37, ii. 9; "Ad Hleronymum Epist.," 
19) energetically affirmed that all that is necessary to the proclamation of the truth 
and the edification of faith is contained in the Scriptures. On the other hand, in 
favour of tradition, Chrysostom, " Ad Thess.," ii. 15. Epiphanius, " Haer.," 61, 6. 
John of Damascus, "De Fide Orthod.," iv, 12. 


TertuUian, "De Virg.," vol. i.: Dominus noster veritatem se, non consuetudinem, 
eognominavit. The African church, up to and including Augustine, often repeated 
this watchword. To the Roman bishop Stephen, who urged against him the tradition 
of his church, CjT)rian replied (Epist. 74, 2), Unde est ista traditio? . . . Ea enim 
facienda esse quae scripta sunt Deus testatur et preemonet ad Jesum Nave dicens: Non 
recedat liber legis hujus ex ore tuo . . . ut observes facere omnia quce scripta sunt 
in eo. And in chapter 3: Item Dominus in evangelio increpans similiter dicit: 
Rejicitis mandatum Dei, ut traditionem vestram statuatis. And in chapter 9: Con- 
suetudo sine veritate vetustas erroris est. Epist. 71, 3: Non est de consuetudine 
prcescribendum sed ratione vicendum. 


The exact number of ecumenical councils is not known. Bellarmine counts eighteen, 
excluding, in the West, those of Basel and Constance. The Greek Church recognises 
only seven. Even these were disputed by certain doctors. Gregory Nazianzen 
recognised only one, the first, that of Nicaea, and said he was ashamed of having sat 
in tlie bad company of the second, that of Chalcedon. The fifth and seventh pro- 
claimed ecumenical councils to be infallible organs of tradition. 

As for the Fathers of the Church, it is known that Abelard, in his famous " Sic 
et non," amused himself by bringing to light their almost infinite contradictions. 
See also Daill6, " De I'emploi des S. Peres," 1632. Rich Simon., " Hist. Crit. des 


commentateurs du N. T.," 1G93. Keply of Bossuet, " Defense de la tradition et des 
S. Pferes," published in 1753 and completed by F. Lachet in 1864. Peddzert, " Le 
Temoignage des P^res," 1892. As for the ecclesiastical practices, modern Catholic 
doctors have lost themselves in subtile distinctions between generals and particulars, 
those which concern dogma and those which touch only upon discipline, those which 
date from the apostles and those which are of human origin; those permanent and 
obligatory, those human and variable. It is needless to say that harmony is never 
found in these distinctions. 


Bellarmine found the practical solution. He closes his chapter on the criteria of 
tradition by this triumphant conclusion ("^De Verbo Dei Scripto et Non Scripto," 
Lib. IV., cap. 9): At nunc defecit certa successio in omnibus ecclesiig apostolicig, 
prcFterquam in Romana, et idea ex testimonio hujus solius ecclesice sumi potest cerium 
argumentvm ad probandas npostolicas traditiones. This is why every question must 
be referred back to the Roman Church alone. 


Perrone, III.: Ecclesice magisterio subordinata est Scriptura et traditio, cum ejus 
tantum sit turn, de veris ac genuinis Scripturis earumque legitimo sensu, turn de 
veris divinisque traditionibus judicare. 

H. M. Pezanni, Codex S. cathol. Romanae Ecclesiae, Can. 33: Pontifex Romanus jura 
omnia in scrinio pectoris sui censetur habere. It has been possible even to maintain 
that documents notoriously unauthentic, like the " False Decretals " or the apocryphal 
text of 1 John v. 7 about the three witnesses, having been admitted by the authority 
of the Church, have received from that decision a sort of " supernatural authori- 
zation." M. Schreben, " Handb, d. Kathol. Dogm." Freiburg, 1873, vol. i. No. 356. 


Vide J. Reville, " Les Ori^nes de I'^piscopat." E. Hatch, " The Organisation of 
the Early Christian Churches." Words change in meaning as institutions are modi- 
fied. With respect to none is this more true than to the word iirlffKoiros. We 
shall comprehend nothing in history so long as we persist in reading the documents 
of the past through the spectacles put before our eyes by the ideas of the present. 


The directing members of the church of Corinth are at that time called rpta^irepot 
and ijyo^ntvoi (1, 3), and it appears that we must make a distinction between 


them. The former, more numerous, formed the Senate, the deliberative council of the 
community ; the latter, in whom we must recognise the " episcopoi," were the executive 
power of the Senate, the directors and administrators delegated to preside over 
public worship and over assemblies and the administration of the common business. 
Nothing is now needed but to pass from the plural to the single episcopate. 


Gal. 1. 17, 1. Paul does not claim for himself alone, by some exceptional title, the 
name of apostle. He applies it to Silvanus as well as to himself, according to 1 Thess. 
ii. 6, to Barnabas in 1 Cor. iv. 5, 6; to Apollos as to Cephas in 1 Cor. iv. 6, 9. He 
cites Andronicus and Junias as iirl<rr]fwi iv roti 6.iroaT6\oii, Rom. xvi. 7. And let 
no one say that Paul thus enlarged the use of the word in a personal interest. No, 
the word was thus used before the conversion of Paul. Thus James became an 
apostle after the appearance to him of the Risen Christ, 1 Cor. xv. 7. Cf. Gal. 
i. 19. The same thing is still more evident from 1 Cor. xv, 5, compared with xv, 7. 
It is very evident that the words roTt diroffT6\oii irdiriv of verse 7 cannot be 
referred to the to«i StiSexa of verse 5. Let us add that the entire argiunent 
of Paul to establish that all the divine signs of apostolicity are found in his person 
and work would have no meaning if the import of apostolicity had previously been 
restricted to a fixed number of persons. The Twelve do not appear as forming a 
higher and closed college until somewhat late after their death, for the first time in 
the book of the Acts of the Apostles, which in its present form did not see the light 
before the year 85 or 90, and in the Revelation of John, which is of the same period. 
The book of the " Teaching of the Apostles " knows the anb<rTokoi of the first times, 
Cooing from church to church with the prophets. But their credit falls with their 
inspiration: ch. xi. However, at that time it was still they and not the presbteroi 
who performed apostolic functions and were the true successors of the apostles. The 
rise of the episcopal power soon eifected their final disappearance. 


"Teach, of the Apos.," xv,: "Elect for yourselves therefore bishops and deacons 
worthy of the Lord [etc.], and let them conduct public worship in place of the 
prophets and preachers. Do not therefore despise them, for it is they, with the 
prophets and preachers, whom you ought to honor." Is it not significant that even 
at this time it was necessary in certain churches (rural, no doubt) to protect the 
influence of the bishops against the fame of inspired itinerants? 

PWl. i. 1; ef. the letter of Polycarp to these very Fhilippians, i. 1; Actfi xx. 17-28, 


in whicli we see that Paul, having sent from Miletus for the presbyteroi of the church 
of Ephesus, told them that the Holy Spirit (not he, Paul) had made them bishops 
of the flock which had been confided to them, Heb. xiii. 17, 24, where both classes are 
called Tj-yovnepoi as in Clement of Rome, 1 Cor. 1, 3; 1 Peter v. 1, where the writer 
calls himself their fellow-elder, avfiirpta^vrtpoi ; " Teach, of the Apost.," xv. Hermns, 
" Visio," iii. 9; Letter of Hadrian to Serv. in Vopisc. Saturn., 8. The sole distinction 
which can be enacted, according to Clement of Rome, 1 Cor. 1, 3, is that the word 
presbyteroi is larger than the word Mgomnenoi, in the sense that the body of the 
former comprehends not only the Mgoumenoi who preside at assemblies, but all who 
in one way or another watch over and participate in the government of the churches. 


S. Jerome, " Ad Titum," i. 7, and Gratian, Decretum, P. I., D. xcv. 5, Olim idem 
erat presbyter qui et episcopus. There is now no further argument on this point. 
Where Father Petau and the Jesuits say to-day that this is due to the fact that in 
tlie beginning all presbyters were at the same time provisionally consecrated bishops, 
it is a pleasant manner, but only a manner, of admitting the undeniable fact of 
identity. Father Perrone also tries to do j ustice to history by saying that the proposi- 
tion, episcopi sunt presbyteris superiores jure divino, is not an article of faith. The 
Council of Trent, Sess. xxiii. can. 6. says, however: Si quis dicerit in ecclesia catholica 
non esse hierarchiam divina ordinatione institntam quce constat ex episcopis, presby- 
teris et ministris, anathema sit! Whom shall we believe? 


Rom. xvi. 5ff. The churches of Corinth who all through this chapter salute the 
churches of Ephesus are, like the latter, family churches, such as are very well desig- 
nated by the German word Hauskirchen. Cf. 1 Cor. i. 11, xvi. 15, 19; Acts xviii. 7, 
xvii. 6, xvi, 15; Col. iv. 15, etc. 


In the well-known fragment called the Muratorian Canon we read, regarding the 
book of Hermas: Pastorem. \iero nuperrime temporihus nostris H. conscripsit, 
sedente cathedra urbis Romce ecclesice Pio episcopo fratre ejus. Where Irenaeus is 
not reproducing an official list, manufactured for the needs of the cause, but speaking 
freely and without precaution, he makes it very clear at what period he himself 
recognises the historicity of the list; that is, beyond which names he finds, not a 
bishop, but presbyteroi, at Rome: Apud Euseb., H. E. V. 24; ol irpb HwTrjpos irpea^i- 
Tfpoi, ol irpoarivrfi t^j iKK\Tfalas and a little farther on, V. 24, 16: oi irpb 'Avik-^tov 



That Episcopal pretensions are concerned is made indubitable by verses 9, 10: 
6 (piKoTTpuTEiiuv airuv . . . oSre airbs ^Tt5^x«^a' ^o"* dSeX^ous . . . (the question, 
according to verse 6, is of foreign brethren, itinerant preachers, whom Diotrephes 
could not endure kuI roi>j ^ov\ofi4vovs KwXi/a Kal iK ttjs iKK\i}alai cK/SdXXet. A. Harnack 
throws a fine light on this point, " Gesch. d. altchr. Litter.," ii. 


John i. 41, It was John and Andrew who first came to Jesus; Peter arrives only 
third. Peter speaks here only once in the name of the Twelve, vl. 69. But Jesus 
makes him no promise. He simply serves as intermediary between the multitude 
and the Master. On the other hand, this part is taken by Philip, by Andrew, and as 
to John, he is the intermediary between Peter and Jesus, either his protector or his 
rival, everywhere more intelligent and more fortunate, xiii. 23, 24. It is John to 
whom Jesus in dying confides his mother and addresses one of his last utterances, 
xix. 26. Thus, while Peter fled and denied his Master, John stands faithful at the 
foot of the cross. It is John who sees and certifies to the mystery of the blood and 
water that flowed from the pierced side of Jesus, xix. 35. More swift than Peter, 
he first reaches th^ sepulchre, and at a first glance he believes, xx. 3-8. Finally, it 
is John, the disciple whom Jesus loved, who first recognises the Risen One on the lake 
shore, and points him out to Peter, xxi. 7. All these data could not have been acumu- 
lated without a purpose. 


For the initial meaning of the word see Matt. xvi. 21; Mark viii. 31; Luke !x. 22; 
Acts xiv. 23, xxi. 18. As originally the charge of teaching, the munus docendi, did 
not pertain essentially to the " elders," but simply the charge of guidance and 
administration, if the apostolic preachers formed a sort of clergy it may be said that 
the *' elders " were at first essentially laical. 


In Acts i. 26: eSuxav (cXi^poi/s avrois, and in Matt, xxviii. and paral. the word 
signifies dice, or method of fortune-telling. Evidently this is the primitive meaning 
from which is derived that of lot obtained in a division or distribution of cures, and 
in consequence, the cure itself. Acts i. 17; rbv KXijpov Trjt 5iaKovlai toi/tt/s. Thence 
it became equivalent to rank, class, order. Thus Acts xxvi. 18, the Gentiles are 
called to receive the forgiveness of sins and to take rank, Xa^eii/ K\7)pov, among 
those who are sanctified by faith in Christ. The verb KXrjpoCcrdai, to be received 
into the k\tjpos, had not at first the meaning of being ordained or consecrated 


priest. It was applied to the conversion of Christians in general. Acts xvli. 4; 
Eph. i. 11, and still later, Epist. ad Diogn. 5, 4. 


1 Pet. V. 3; Clement of Rome, 1 Cor. 41, 1: ?/co<rroj . . . i» tQ ISlifi rdyfuiri €ix>- 
piarelTu. Tdyfia = K\-^pos. 

Eusebius, H. E. V., 10, 26: Twice there is question of the KXijpos rwv fiapripwp 
in the letter from the churches of Vienne and Lyons. For the order of widows, of 
"elderesses" or deaconesses, 1 Tim. v. 2-16. Hermas, "Past. Vis." II. 4, a function 
attributed to Grapte. Tertullian, " De Virg. vel " 9, etc., vide Zahn, "Ignatius u. 
seine Zeit," p. 580flF. 


Tertullian is the first to speak of an ordo eccletiasticus, an ordo sacerdotalis. 
He calls the bishop sacerdos, summus sacerdos, pontifex maximus, with or without 
sarcasm; " De Pudic," 21; " De Bapt," 7; " De Exhort. Cast.," 7, etc. From this 
period a divine reason for the choice of this word kXvros is sought by linking 
it to the sacerdotal institution itself. Hence the ingenious, but fantastic explana- 
tion of Jerome, Epist. 52, "Ad Nepotianum": Clerici vocantur vel quia de sorte 
sunt Domini, vel quia ipse Dominua sort id est pars clericorum est (Deut. x. 9, xviii. 
2). Augustine's explanation is even less acceptable, Expos, in Psal. Ivii. 19: Et clerum 
et clericos hinc appellatos puto, quia Matthias sorte electus est quern prinrnm per 
apostolos legimus ordinatum (Acts i. 26). The dogma dictated both the history and 
the exegesis of the most learned Fathers of the Church. 


Mark xiv. 22, and para!., to0t6 iariv to awfxd /xov. It is probable that the verb 
i<rTii>, the meaning of which has been so much discussed, was not expressed in the 
Aramaean phrase used by Jesus. Apparently there was simple juxtaposition; this 
bread, my body. One must be wholly unacquainted with Oriental languages and the 
usus loquendi of the prophets in general, and of Jesus in particular, to cast doubt 
upon the figurative meaning of this form of speech, so popular and so luminous. 


This view emerges with irresistible evidence from the most ancient liturgy of the 
Lord's Slipper known to us, preserved in the " Teaching of the Apostles." " For 
the Kucharist, proceed thus: First with the cup [to begin with the cup is highly 
original and conforms to the Jewish practice. Cf. Luke xxii. 17]: We render 


thanks to thee, O our Father, for the holy vine of David thy servant, which thou 
ha^t made known to us by Jesus thy servant. To thee be glory through all ages! 
Then, over the broken bread: We thank thee, O our Father, for the life and wisdom 
which thou hast made known to «» by Jesus, thy servant. To thee be glory through 
all ages! As this bread was scattered upon the mountains, and being gathered, 
became one, so may thy Church be gathered into thy Kingdom from all the ends of 
the earth (ix. 1-4). This liturgy is much older than the document which preserved 
it, and appears to be of Galilean origin. But it was not obligatory, for we read 
immediately after (x. 7): "As for the prophets, let them celebrate the Eucharist 
as they will." In any case, no mention is made either of the flesh or the blood, the 
body or the death of Jesus. With reference to the bread it is simply said: Almighty 
Master, thou hast created all things for thy name's sake: thou hast given to men 
food and drink that they may rejoice and give thanks unto thee; and to us, in thy 
mercy, thou hast given spiritu<il food and drink and eternal life, by thy servant. 
Apparently there was nothing else in the K\d<Tii tov Aprov which, according to Acts 
ii. 42 (doubtless reproducing a more ancient source), was celebrated by the first 
Judfleo-Christian community of Jerusalem. 


Irenaeus, " Adv. Haer.," iv. 17, 5. In the second century the doctrine of the 
incarnate Logos ruled and inspired the entire doctrine of the Eucharist. Bread 
and wine were no longer ordinary bread and wine, but in the Lord's Supper, after 
the words of consecration, they were penetrated by the vivifying presence of the 
Logos in such wise that they rendered immortal the body that was fed by them, as 
the soul is saved and vivified by the Logos himself. The elements of the Supper 
were often likened to the flesh and blood which the Logos took on in the womb of 
his mother. Thus the Eucharist becomes the second form of the incarnation of the 

Justin Martyr, " First Apol.," 66: o^yap us Koivbv Uprov ovdk Koivbv irbix.a ravra Xafi^dvo- 
fi€v, K.T. X. The bread and wine thus become the body of Christ, and the bodies which 
are fed on them become immortal like him. At the same time, this is not yet the 
dogma of transubstantiation, it is the mystical and mysterious coexistence of the 
two substances and two elements, just as in the man Jesus the earthly flesh and the 
heavenly Logos were equally real. Irenaeus well explains this, iv. 18, 5. 

This mystical point of view still permitted symbolical interpretations of the 
Supper. Thus TertuUian could explain the words, hoc est corpus meum, by figura 
corporis met, " Adv. Marc," iv. 40, and Clement of Alexandria and Origen were 
free to protest energetically against a materialistic conception of the Supper. 
"Paedag.," i. 6, 47: rd at/ia olvos dWrjyopeiTaL. Cf. ii. 2. Vide Origen on Matt. xi. 
14, boldly applying to the Supper what Jesus says of meats (Matt. xv. 11): "That 
which enters a man's mouth can neither defile nor sanctify him," and drawing from 
this principle all its consequences. But this spiritualism of a few high minds wai 


bound to lose ground. In the minds of the hierarchy, and in popular imagination, 
the materialistic conception daily took deeper root. Forbidden by John of Damas- 
cus, " De Fid. Orth.," iv. 13, it was proclaimed the faith of the Church at the 
second Council of Nicaea, Mansi, xiii. p. 266. Long before being defined by Pas- 
chase Radbert, the dogma of transubstantiation existed as a fact in the Catholic 

This dogma permitted the reservation of the cup from believers. The body of 
Jesus, flesh and blood, being entirely in the host, the wine became a superfluity. It 
is difficult to see why it is given to the priests themselves, if not to do them honour. 
It is curious to note that the reservation of the cup, now the law of the Roman 
Church, had been condenmed as a culpable heresy by Popes Gelasius I and Leo the 
Great. Gratiani Decretum de Consecr., D. 2. C. 13. 


Eusehius, H. E. TV. 22, 5; V. 16, 7; V. 28, 12; VI. 43, 5. Hermas, " Past. Mand.,'* 
xl. TertuUian, " De Bapt.," 7; Episcopatus amulatio schismatum mater eat. 
Cyprian, Epist. 59. Opatatus, " Adv. Parm.," iv. Epiphanius, " Hser.," xlii. 1, etc. 


The eulogy which Ignatius bestows upon the bishop, and the part allotted to him, 
appear to be far more appreciative than those to whom Tertullian and Irenaeus 
awarded it a little later. They have been held to be hyperbolic. They are simply 
mystic and may be perfectly understood from the point of view just brought for- 
ward. This appears with evidence from the following passages, " Ad. Magn.," iii. 
1, vii: ^ffirtp odv b Ki'pioi ivev roO narpbi oiibiv ivoi,-fi<T€v .... ivrwi ti7]Si v/uets dvev rod 
iiriffKbirov Kalruiv irpeafivT^pijiv firjdiv irpdffffere. '''' Ad. Trail.," ii. 2:'AvayKaTovol>v iffriv . . 
S.i>€v Tov iTKTKbirov nTjSivTrpiffffeiv i/pias, dW inrordfffffiTdai Kal rip irpeff^vrriplip ws toTs diroarbXait 
'Irjffov Kpiffrov. Ibid., iii. 1: rbv iirla'Koirov6ma rOirourov varpbi, roiis 5i irpfa^vT^povs uiffvv- 
iSpiov Beov Kal aivSeafwv diroffrbXuv. "Ad. Philad.," iv., vii., and viii.; "Ad. Smyrn.," 
viii., etc.) Thence the idea that the bishop takes the place of God or of Christ, and 
that the presbyterate is like God's Sanhedrin, or the college of apostles. Thence 
also the notion that the true Eucharist is that of the bishop, that where the bishop 
is the Christian people ought to be, for the true church is where Jesus Christ is. 
All this forms an original and very intelligible system, very diflFerent from the one 
which will appear later. The theory of the apostolic succession of the bishops has 
no part here, and is positively absent from it. 


Tertullian, "Ad Martyras," i; "De Pudic," 22. Eusehius, H. E. V., 1, 4, and 
20; V. 2. Cyprian, Epist. xiv. 4; xix. 2; xxxiv. 4; xxi. 3; xxxvii. 4; Ixxvi. 7. Origen, 


" Horn, in Fum.," xxiv. 1 ; " De Exhort, ad Martyr.," 30 and 50. The martyrs were 
looked upon as exceptional Christians or saints, in whom the expiatory sufferings of 
Christ still went on. Eusebius, H. E. V. i. 23, says of a martyr: iv v Tdo-xw Xpi<rr6s. 
Whence their privilege and power to remit the sins of those who visited them in 
prison to ask for a note of absolution, literce pads. 


General Literature. Besides the documents cited or discussed in the course of 
the chapter, the Synodal Decision contained in the great collections of Acts of the 
Councils, the most complete of which is that of Mansi, Concil. Coll. Nova et Amplis- 
sima, 31 vol. in folio, 1759. Routh, " Reliquiae Sacrae," iii. and iv. De Lagarde, 
"Reliquiae Juris Ecclesiast. Antiquis.," 1856. Pitra, "Juris Ecclesiast. Monum.," 

Apostolicas Constitutiones, Cotelier edition, and the entire history of their pro- 
gressive formation. R. Rothe, "Die Anfaenge der christ. Kirche." Beyschlag 
"Die Kirch. Verfassung im Zeitalter d. n. T." Weizsaecker, "Das apost. Zeit- 
alter." F. C. Baur, " Der Ursprung d. Episcopats." A. Ritschl, " Die Entstehung 
d. alt. kathol. Kirche." A. Harnack, O. Gebhardt, T. Zahn, " Patrura apostol. Opera," 
with texts, criticisms, and commentaries, from 1876. Hatch, " The Organization of 
the Early Christian Churches." E. Renan, " Hist, d, orig. du Christian.," especially 
the volumes on the Gospels, and on Marcus Aurelius. J. R6ville, "Les origlnes de 
I'Episcopat," i. 


Ignatius ad Rom. iii. 1 ; axXovr iSidd^arf. An interesting story related by Eusebius 
vi. 2, 13, about a lady of Alexandria who gave impartial hospitality to Origen and a 
noted heretic, and invited them both to give addresses, serves to show the difference 
that existed between the doctrinal tolerance that prevailed in Egypt, and Roman 
practice. The catalogue of the New Testament books in the Muratorian Fragment, 
which may date back to the reign of M'arcus Aurelius, is of Roman origin. The lists 
of the episcopal succession in Rome are of the time of Eleutherus or of Victor 
(180-195). Finally, the oldest apostolic constitutions bear the names of Clement 
and Hippolytus, who are Romans. 


Vide in Eusebius v. 24, 2, the letter of Polycrates, " It is we who are faithful to 
tradition. ... In Asia repose the bodies of those great men; Philip, John, Poly- 
carp, Sagaris, Papirius, Meliton, who will rise again at the last day," " All of them 
celebrated Easter the fourteenth day according to the Gospel. ... I, therefore, 
my brethren, who have lived sixty-five years in the Lord, who have conversed with 


brethren throughout the whole world, who have read the Holy Scriptures from end 
to end, I shall not lose my self-possession whatever may be done to frighten me. 
Greater than I have said : ' We ought to obey God rather than man.' ... I 
could cite bishops here present who have come to see me, poor, forlorn me, and have 
given their adhesion to my letter, knowing well that I do not wear white hair for 
nothing; and who are assured that all that I do, I do in the Lord Jesus." To this 
noble and touching letter Victor replied by his decree of excommunication, which 
evoked protests from almost all the other bishops. 


Letter from Irenaeus to Victor in Eusebius v. 24, 14 and 15: "Yes, the presby- 
ter! who before Soter directed the church which thou now guidest, Anicetus, Pius, 
Hyginus, Telesphorus, Xyste, did not observe the Jewish Passover . . .; but, while 
they observed it not, none the less did they keep the peace with the churches that 
observed it. . . . Never was anyone repelled for this reason. On the contrary, the 
elders that preceded thee, and who did not themselves observe it, used to send the 
Eucharist to those who observed." He goes on to cite the example of reciprocal 
concord and respect set by Anicetus and Polycarp. The resistance of the bishops 
of Asia, supported on all sides, was not overcome. The question was not definitively 
settled until the Council of Nicsea. 


IrenKUS iii. 3. 3: Qe/xtXulxTaPTei oSv Kal olKoSofi-^ffavrts ol fiaKdpioi iir6ffTo\oi r^v iKK\ri- 
alav, Alvip rijv rijt itnaKoirTJ^ Xeirovpytap ivexdpiffav. 

To the same effect Eusebius says, H. E. III. 2: rrji S^ 'Punaluv iKK\r]fflai fitri. ri/v 
TlaiXov Kal Il^rpov fj,apTvplav irpCJTos KXrjpovTai tt/c iwiffKOirijv Aivoi. So also speak the 
Apostolic Constitutions, Rufinus, etc. To anyone even a little acquainted with the 
history of the early times the idea of an apostle-bishop is a moral impossibility, 
because the two terms are mutally exclusive. 


Cyprian is the first writer who designates the Roman See as locum Petri (Ep. 
52) and cathedram Petri (Ep. 55). But in his view the entire Episcopate is the 
successor of Peter, and the Bishop of Rome has no power over his colleagues (Ep. 
33, 1 ) . We must be on our guard in the " De Unitate," 4 and 5, against certain 
Roman interpolations concerning the primacy of Peter, which are wanting in the 
most ancient MSS. and in the first printed editions. Cyprian's true thought is found 
in Ep. 71, 3. And still more clearly in his adress before the Synod of Carthage in 
the year 256 : Neque enim quisquam nostrum episcopum se ease episcoporum constituit, 


out tyrannico terrore ad obsequendi necessitatem collegas suos adigit, quando habeat 
omnia episcopus pro licentia libertatis et potestatis suob arbitrium proprium, tanquam 
judicari ab alio non possit, quum nee ipse possit alterum judicare. 


Acts XV. ; Gal. ii. ; Horn, Clement., " Ep. Petri ad Jacob." The Roman exegesis 
of Matt. xvi. 18, was a long time in winning its way, and its success was a more 
diflScult feat than is generally believed. Most of the Fathers of the fourth and fifth 
centuries stiU stood for the spiritualistic or symbolic interpretation. The word -ir^rpa 
is generally understood of Peter's confession (Hilary, Gregory of Nyssa, Ambrose, 
Chrysostom) or else of the person of Christ (Jerome, Augustine), more rarely of 
the person of Peter. Jerome wavers (Ep. 15 al. 57 "Ad Damasum"). Even in the 
latter case, Peter is considered as merely the representative, the epitome, the symbol 
of the entire episcopate. Primatum confessionis, non honoris, primatnm fidei, non 
ordinis, says Ambrose, " De Incarnat Domini," c. 4. Optatus Milev, " De Schismate 
Donatistarum libri vii."; Augustine, " De Diversis," serm. 108, and in Evang. Johannis 
tractatus, 124, 5, etc. Vide Casaubon, " Exercit. ad Baronium," xv. n. ISff. and, to sum 
up, Gieseler, " Kirchengesch.," vol. i. part 2, p. 10. An interesting story might be 
told of the exegesis of the text of Matthew, It would be seen that exegesis did not 
always determine the evolution of the hierarchy, but rather the hierarchy that of 


Innocent I, Epist. 25, "Ad Docentium." Cone, of Sardis, Epist. "Ad Julium 
episc. Rom." (in Mansi, iii. 40. Vide Can. 3 in Mansi, iii. 23). Yet from the narra- 
tive of Hilary of Aries, the canons of the Council of Carthage (398), and the letter 
of the Council of Africa to Celestin I, the resistance encountered by this new juris- 
diction of the Bishop of Rome becomes evident. 


It is worthy of notice that in the West, even under Leo I, the bishops of Rome 
had no exclusive name or title. The names Papa Apostolicus, Vicarius Christi, 
Summus Pontifex, Sedes apostolica, were used of other bishops and their sees. In 
the East Dioscurus caused himself to be called olKovfifviKbs Apxt-enlffKoiros as Patri- 
arch of Alexandria. The statement of the Roman Catechism (Pars ii. c. 7, qusest. 
24) is a fable; according to it, Cyril at the Council of Ephesus called the Bishop 
of Rome Archiepiscopum totius orbis terrarum Patrem et Patriarcham. Clovis still 
gives the name of "popes" to all bishops (Mansi, viii. 34G). In the Greek Church 
it continues to be the name of all clerics. Indefinite and general until the seventh 
century, the usage which reserved it as the unique title of the Bishop of Rome alone 


was not fixed until the celebrated Dictation of Gregory VII: Quod hoc unicum est 
nomen in mundo. Vide Thomassin, " Vetus et Nova Eccl. Disciplina," Pars i. lib. 
i. 4, Gieseler, K. G. i. p. 2'-2S. S. Berger, Encyl. des sciences relig., art. " Pape," etc. 


Leo, Epist. 10. al. 89, "Ad Episc. Provinciae Viennensis": Sed hujus muneris 
tacramentum ita Domiwut ad omnium apostolorum, officium, pertinere voluit, ut in 
beatissimo Petro, apostolorum omnium summo, principaliter coUocaret, et ab ipso, 
quasi quodam capite, (this is new indeed) dona sua velit in corpus omne manare, 
ut exsortem se mysterii intelligeret esse divini, qui ausus fuisset a Petri soliditate 
recedere. And elsewhere, " Ep. ad Anastasium, episc. Thessalonic." 12 (al 14), c. 
11: Magna ordinatione provisum est ne omnes {episcopi) sibi omnia vindicarent, 
sed essent in singulis provinciis singuli, quorum inter fratres haberetur prima ten- 
tentia, et rursus quidam, in majoribus «r6i6tw constituti, soUicitudinem, susciperent 
ampliorem, per quos ad unam Petri sedem universalis ecclesice cura conflueret et nihil 
usquam a suo capite dissideret (See again Leo, serm. 83). 


See how Justinian, with reference to church matters, addresses himself to the 
Bishop of Rome as well as to others (Cod. Justin, nov. 123, c. 3.) KeXevofievrolvw. k t.X. 
See also the curious way in which Gregory the Great humbly obeys, though with 
protest, a law of the Emperor Maurice (Greg. M. lib. iii. ep. 63, " Ad Mauricium 
Aug."). Utrobique ergo qua" debui exsolvi, qui et imperatori obedientiam pra^bui et 
pro Deo quod sensi minime factii. He recognises and proclaims the supreme authority 
of the emperor, to whom God has said Sacerdotes meos [including the Pope] tuce 
manui commisi. It is by noting these attitudes that we measure the distance over- 
passed by the papacy. 


These " False Decretals " of the Pseudo-Isidore became the basis of the new 
canon law which took the place of the old. Without this document the development 
of the papal system to the universal theocracy of Gregory VII and Innocent III 
would be unintelligible. Vide David Blondel, " Pseudo-Isodorus et Turrianus 
vapulantes," 1628. Gieseler, K. G. ii. 1st Part, p. 173 and flF. Cunitz, Encyl. des 
sc. relig., art. *' Decretals." 


The life and letters of Hildebrand prove that though he was animated by an 
absolutely sincere conviction, faith did not in his case exclude the dexterity at once 


versatile and tenacious of the man of policy. To him, above all others, the Church 
owes it that she was constituted an essentially political society. 


An ancient tradition preserved by the " Liber Pontificalis " relates that Everest, 
who comes fourth on the list of the early Roman bishops, " ordained seven deacons 
with the mission of watching over the preaching of the bishop, lest he swerve from 
the type of the truth" ("Lib. Pont.," 6). E^^dently Everest held neither himself 
nor his successors to be infallible. This citation has another importance; it gives a 
glimpse of how and under what conditions the Episcopate was established in Rome. 
This church for a long time was content to be presbyterial. When it acquired a 
bishop, precisely about the epoch of Everest, under Trajan, the bishop must have 
had around him a supervising council. This is perhaps the historic meaning of this 
curious tradition, which must be very ancient, since after the third century it could 
not have been invented. 


Athanasius, " Historia Arian. ad Monachos," 41. Jerome, " Chronicle," edition 
Schoene, p. 194. " Catal. de Viris 111.," c. 97. Vide Hefele, " Conciliengesch.," i. 
Gieseler, K. G. i., 2d Part, p. 60. S. Berger, Encyl. des so. relig., art. " Liberius." 


Vigelius wrote to the Monophysite bishops Theodosius, Anthimus, and Severus, 
a letter in which he declared himself gained to their doctrine, begging them to say 
nothing on the subject, for fear of injuring his candidacy for the See of Rome, 
which he succeeded in gaining. The letter is preserved by the Chronicler Victor of 
Tunnum and by Liberatus, Breviarium, c. 22. The essential passage is as follows, 
according to Gieseler, i. 2, p. 367: Me earn fidem quam tenetis, Deo adjuvante, et 
tenuisse et lenere significo. Oportet ergo ut hac quae vobis scribo nullus agnoscat 
sed magis tanquam suspectum me sapientia vestra ante alios existimet habere, ut 
facilius possim hcec qucs coepi operari et perficere. See also in Gieseler, lb., p. 370, 
his subservience to the orders of the Emperor Justinian, who caused him to write a 
declaration, which, however, he afterward withdrew. In a letter to Boniface IV, 
St. Colombanus, recalling the errors of Vigelius and playing upon his name, said: 
"Watch, I beseech thee, O Pope, watch! and again I say, watch! for that Vigelius 
was not vigilant whom men here show forth as the head of scandal, and throw him 
at our heads as a reproach. Well may we weep when the Catholic faith is not main- 
tained upon the seat of the apostles." Colombanus was evidently ignorant of the 
dogma of papal infallibility (Gallandi, Biblioth. Patrum, xiL) 



The heresy of Honorius is important only from the Catholic point of view. If 
a single Pope has been in error none of them can be infallible. Hence the incredible 
passion with which the case of Honorius was discussed at the time of the Vatican 
Council (vide the four letters of Father Gratry, 1870). Nevertheless the case is 
extremely simple. The letter of Honorius, in which the Pope shares the heresy of 
those who admitted only a single will in Jesus Christ, is found in a Greek transla- 
tion in Mansi, xi. p. 538ff. The really grave feature of the case is the anathemas 
pronounced upon Honorius. The Sixth Ecumenical Council (Actio xiii in Mansi, 
xi. p. 556) after having condemned the Eastern bishops, Sergius, Cyrus, Pyrrhus, 
Petrus, and Paulus, adds : " We also exclude from the Church and declare to be 
anathema Honorius, Kal 'Ovdptov t6v yeudfievov ndirav t^j irpeff^vripai "Pdnris. This 
anathema was repeated (Actio xvi. and xviii.). In his letter to the Emperor at Con- 
stantinople, Pope Leo II, one of the successors of Honorius, confirms and repeats 
the anathema (Vide Mansi, xi. col. 731; et ejusdem epist. ad Episcop. Hispaniae, col. 
1052ff). Finally, in the profession of faith made by the later Popes on taking their 
seat (Liber diurnus, 84, ed. Sickel, p. 100), a perpetual anathema is pronounced upon 
the authors of any new and heretical dogma: Sergium . . . una cum Honorio 
qui pravis eorum assertionibus f omentum impendit. If such a condemnation for 
heresy does not command belief, what one will? The defenders of Honorius have 
insisted that the acts of the Council and the letter of Honorius were falsified. Why 
should they have been, at the very time when everybody was conspiring to exalt the 
papacy? There were falsifications at a later day, but they were of the opposite sort, 
not to create scandal, but to do away with it. Vide Richer, " Hist, gener. concil.," 
i. p. 296. Du Pin, " De Antiqua Eccl. Discipl.," p. 349. Bossuet, " Defensio Declar. 
Cleri Gallic," ii. 128. Cf. that edition of Hefele's " History of the Councils " which 
preceded the Vatican Council with the one which followed it. 


Gregor., Dictat. 22. The infallibility of the Pope himself is not here affirmed, 
but it is clearly understood that he is the mouth as well as the head of the infallible 
Roman Church, and therefore he represents its infallibility. Nevertheless, the dis- 
tinction is always made between the organ of the Roman Church and the person 
of the Pope himself, and the possibility is clearly admitted that the Pope may err 
in matters of faith. Thus in a decretal of the monk Gratian (eleventh century) we 
read: Papa cunctos ipse judicaturus a nemine est judicandus nisi deprehenditur 
a fide devius (Gratianus, Diet. xl. c. 6 ex dictu Bonifacii martyris). The same 
thought is expressed by Innocent III himself ("De Consecratione Pontif.," serm. 3). 



Innocent III declares that he is not the voice of a man, that is, of Peter, but of 
God himself (Lib. I. epist. 326, 335), that he holds a power not human, but divine, 
whence the glosses of the canonists: dicitur habere cceleste arbitrium. — In hia quo9 
cult, est pro ratione voluntas. — Nee est qui ei dicat: cur ita facis? — Ipse enim potest 
supra jus dispensare. — De injustitia potest facere justitiam corrigenda jura et 
mutando. In fact, there have been canonists to say that simony was not a sin in 
Rome, because, though the Pope condemned it in others, he had the right to tolerate 
it in himself (vide Gieseler, K. G. II. Part 2, 4th edition, p. 224flF. 

Hence the quasi-divine honours rendered to the Pope: AU Kings should kiss his 
feet (Gregor, Dictat. 10). It is the Emperor's duty to hold his stirrup (oficium 
slrepa). These are Oriental habits and forms of honour and respect which, at this 
period, passed from Constantinople to Rome. 


Gregor., Dictat. 7: Quod illi soli Papie licet pro temporis necessitate novas leges 
condere. Sexti, Lib. Decretal., I. tit. 2: Romanus Pontifex jura omnia in scrinio 
pectoris sui cense tur habere, a formula which became axiomatic in the Roman 
speech. There was, however, one eighteenth-century Pope, the learned and enlightened 
Benedict XIV, who doubted and made light of it. "If it is true," said he, "that in 
the treasure-house of my breast are hidden all law and all truth, I confess that I have 
never been able to find the key." Hase, " Hanb. der. prot. Polemik," 5th edition, 
p. 207. 


The simple and since then oft-repeated argument from Scripture in Cuke xxii. 32, 
" I have prayed for thee that thy faith fail not." The reasoning ran and still runs 
thus: Every prayer of Christ was answered. This one must also have been. Unfor- 
tunately we find Peter denying his Master only a few hours after, and again, at 
Antioch (Gal. ii.), meriting the severe reprimand of Paul for weakness which went 
as far as hypocrisy. It seems to have been a peculiarity of Peter to be overtaken 
by temptation, to fail, and afterward to atone for his failures by repentance. This 
example shows how far our exegesis is from that of the Middle Ages. 


Thomas Aquinas develops the papal attributes: Summus Pontifex, caput ecclesice, 
cura ecclesice universalis, pleniludo potestatis, potestas determinandi novum sym- 
bohim. He deduces the infallibility of the Pope from that of the Church. It matters 
little what the Pope is morally. Thomas cites the example of Caiaphas who, though 


wicked, yet, because he was the pontiff, unconsciously spoke by the Spirit of God. 
L'ntil the beginning of the fourteenth century, the papal system continued to be 
developed in a literature which was juridical to its remotest consequences. The two 
most extraordinary works are those of the Augustinian monk Triumphus, who died 
in 13i?8 ("Summa de Potestate Ecclesiastica ad Joh. Papam XXII"), and of the 
Franciscan monk Alvarus Pelagius, who died about 1340 (" De Planeta Ecclesiae"). 
According to Harnack (" Dogm. Gesch.," III. p. 399), these two canonists actually 
distinguish between the Pope and God only by saying that the Pope should be 
adored only " ministerialiter." Elsewhere they call him " Dominua deus noster papa." 
Gieseler, K. G. II. 3d Part, 4th edition, p. 42fF. 


In the rich literature called forth by the Vatican Council only a few names of the 
opposing party can be cited : Mark, " Du concile general et de la paix religieuse," 
3 vols., 1869. F. Gratry, four letters, 1869. De Pressense, " Le Concile du Vatican," 
1870. Janus, " Der Pabst u. das Concil," 1869. Friedrich, " Geschichte des Vatic. 
Concils," 1872. Dupanloup, "Lettre sur le future Concile," 1869; " Reponse de Mgr. 
Dupanloup a Mgr. Dechamps," 1870 (Naples); among the lawyers: Mgr. Dechamps, 
" L'infaillibilite et le Concile," 1869. Manning, " Tradizione della Chiesa intorno 
all' infallibilita," 1169. 


Spinoza, " Tract, theol. polit." : Non satis mirari possum cur inter sacros libros 
recepti fuerunt (libri Paralipom.) ab its qui libros SapientioB, Tobice et reliquos ex 
canone sacrorum deleverunt. Upon the question of Old Testament Apocrypha, the 
object of such long and sterile quarrels between Protestants and Catholics, vide E. 
Reuss, " Hist, du Canon des S. Ecrit." Evidently the Protestants had the worst of 
the argument, since they could defend their thesis only by attributing divine 
authority to acts of the synagogue and of Pharisaic Rabbinism, as they could defend 
the divine character of the New Testament only by admitting the divine character 
of the acts of the Church Fathers, of the Councils, and of a tradition which in all 
other respects they declare fallible and tainted with error. 


Dailld, "Trait6 de I'emploi des Saints P^res," etc., 1632-66; " De Pseudepigraphis 
Apostolicis," 1655; " De scriptis quae sub Dionysii Arop, et Sancti Ignatii Nomi- 
nibus Circumferuntur," 1666. D. Blondel, " Pseudo-Isidorus et Turrianus vapu- 
lantes," 1628, and other works, 1641-49. This was the beginning of historic criticism 
and exegesis among Protestant pastors. 



Alph. Turretin and J. F. Osterwald are witnesses to the weakening of the doctrine 
of inspiration. Both of them passed over to Arminianisra. The former calls the 
Bible " a divine book " because of the excellence and the moral and religious superi- 
ority of its teachings. The latter distinguishes in the Bible between the express 
revelations of God and the things which the writers may have seen, heard, or known 
by themselves, and afterward related according to their own ability, with the assist- 
ance of the Holy Spirit. The general divinity of the Bible is proved by the truth of 
its doctrines; by its moral effects, and by its miracles and prophecies. "Certain 
theologians," says Osterwald again, " have added to these proofs the witness of the 
Holy Spirit, which, however, some esteem of little probative value and superfluous." 
Nothing is more significantly characteristic of the orthodox}^ of this period. A. 
Turretin, " Cognitationes et Dissert Theolog.," 1737. J. F. Osterwald, " Compendium 
Theologiae Christ.," 1739. 


Michaelis, " Dogm.," p. 92: Ich muss aufrichtig gestehen, dass so fest ich von der 
Wahrheit der Offenbarung ilberzeugt bin, ich in meinem Leben niemals ein solches 
Zeugniss des Heil. Oeistes vernommen habe, auch in der Bibel kein Wort davon finde. 
Reinhard, " Dogm." p. 69. 


In a history of the precursors of the religious and literary renascence of the 
nineteenth century there would be many other names to cite, especially of poets: 
Klopstock (1724-1803), Hamann (1730-88), Lavater (1741-1801), Claudius (1740- 
1815); especially Herder, with his thoroughly religious philosophy of history (1744- 
1803). Poetry, like flowers, is always the forerunner of spring. 


Chateaubriand, " Le G^nie du Christianisme," 1802; "Les Martyrs," 1809; " ritin6- 
raire," 1811. Mme. de Stael, " TAUemagne," 1810. Fontanes, " le Jour des Morts," 
1796. Early works of Lamartine, Victor Hugo, De Vigny. Vide Sointe-Beuve, 
"Chateaubriand et son Groupe," 2 vols.; Vinet, "Litt^rature au XlXme Si^cle," 
vol. i. 


For Puseyism vide "Tracts for the Times" (1834-39). J, H. Newman, 
"Apologia pro Vita Sua." C. SchroU, art. "Traktarianismus," in Herzog's Real- 
Encyclop., STd edition, vol. xv. For German neo-Lutheranism, vide F. Lichtenberger, 


" Hist, des Idies rel. en Allemagne," vol. ii. O. Pfleiderer, " Entwickelung d. protest. 
Thcologie seit Kant." 


Never did more profound piety go with franker criticism. This prayer was found 
among liis notes: "O my God, give it to me to be true! . . , true above all as to 
tlicc, as to thy service. . . . Give me the truth, that I may be all light. Give me 
sincerity that 1 may manifest all the truth I know, unveiled and without reserve. May 
my heart be within me as the heart of the weaned child." Grdard, Ibid., p. 86. 
Scherer, " La critique et la foi," 1850. 


It would be difficult and useless to give a complete bibliography of this con- 
troversy. We merely remark that the adversaries of the new theology may be classed 
in three groups, of which it is enough to name the principal representatives. 

1. The thoroughgoing Theopneustics : Merle d'Aubign^; J. H. Darby; De Gas- 
parin; C. Malan. 

2. Moderate Theopneustics: L. Bonnet; P. Jalaguier. Next to Jalaguier and 
defending the dogma in the same essentially rationalistic way are: Chenevifere; 

3. Finally, the third party (since then become legion), represented by Asti6 
almost alone: Scherer followed this controversy closely in the early volumes of the 
Strasburg review, and replied to one and all with caustic precision. 


Twesten, " Vorlesungen iiber die Dogmatik der ev.-luth. Kirche," 4th edition, 1839. 
K. T. Nitzsch, " System der christl. Lehre," 6th edition, 1851. J. P. Lange, " Christ- 
lithe Dogmatik," 2d edition, 1870. D. Schenkel, "Die christl. Dogmatik," 1858-59. 
A. Dorner, " Entwickelungsgeschichte d. Lehre von d. Person Christi," 1839 and 1856. 
"System der christl. Glaubenslehre," 2d edition, 1886-88. Naturally the dogma of 
the infallible authority of the letter of the Bible is even more abandoned by the 
school of A. Ritschl, which has succeeded that of the "conciliation theology" (Ver- 


We may recall the words of Papias (Eusebius H. E. iii. 39: oi5 yhp ra iK rwv /3t/9- 
\lu}v ro<TovT()v fie d}(()e\uv vireXd/x^avov 6aov rk irapi. fwcTTjs <f>u)v^i Kal fievoiu<Tr]s. And further 
with reference to the logia of the Lord collected by Matthew: ijpfii^ifvaf 5' airrd. us ^5t>- 
varo ^KacTot. 



Matt. XX. 25-27; xxiii. 8-12. Cf. 1 Cor. iii. 21-23. It is evident that the Roman 
Catholic Church, in its clerical hierarchy, its distinction between clergy and laity, 
and by the function of mediation and direction attributed to its priests, violates 
both the spirit and the letter of these words. 


That the light which enlightens the Christian and gives perfect assurance to his 
faith is a light from within and not from without, nor from any exterior authority 
whatsoever, is proved by many other declarations of Jesus. For example, he had 
already said, "The pure in heart shall see God" (Matt. v. 8). I.ater he added 
" The light of the body is the eye. If therefore thine ej'e be single thy whole body 
shall be full of light, but if thine eye be evil thy whole body shall be full of dark- 
ness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is the darkness" 
(Matt. vi. 22, 23). From this we may understand the aim and end of all Christ's 
teaching. It is not to impose upon us by authority any belief whatever, but to en- 
lighten us and make us see. His disciples are those to whom he has given sight, and 
who thenceforth may walk in all liberty and assurance by the light which he has en- 
kindled within them. The authority of his person is therefore never distinct from 
the truth of his utterances. It is of such a nature that, being as sovereign and 
absolute as the authority of truth and holiness, it not only accords with our liberty, 
but creates it and makes it complete. Christ is the supreme liberator: by freeing 
us from evil he frees us from all servitude, and establishes us in royal liberty. His 
law is the law of liberty. (Jas. i. 25.) 


2 Cor. iii. 18: ij.rrafiop<povfjieda . . . avb Kvplov irveiiiaroi. 2 Cor. v. 17: rf rif (n 
"KpiCTT^, Kaivi) KTlaii- to, dpxata Trap^A^ef, IBoi) yeyovev Kaiva rd irdvTa. 


1 Cor xiii. 9-12: ek fiipovi ywdffKOfjLev ; Phil. iii. 15. Study especially 1 Cor. vii. 40. 
Giving his opinion without insisting upon it (ipLriv yv<Jop.r)v) Paul says: " I also have 
the Spirit of God," not to the exclusion of the community, but in co-participation 
with it. The Thessalonian Christians also have the Spirit of God, and for that 
reason the apostle counsels them to examine all things, even what he is writing to 
them, end to hold fast that which is good (1 Thess. v. 21). 



Rom. vii. 6: TraXatArjjTi ypiynaroi — Kaii6T7jTi irveifiiTni. 2 Cor. iii. 6-17: . 
ypdfifiaTos — SiaKOi la irveOfxaTdi. Rom. viii. 13, 16. Gal. iv. 1-5. 


John vi. 33-63, the entire discourse upon the bread of life: xv. 1-7. Observe 
in both Gospel and Epistle the frequent use of the verb nivnv, abide. John v. 38, 
vi. 56, XV. 9; 1 John ii. 6, 10, 14, 24, 27, 28; iv. 12, 13, 15, etc. 


I cannot refrain from quoting here a noble page of M. M6n^goz: "Ah, how 
great is the joy of him who has reached the certainty that an error of thought cannot 
condemn him, and that God, to receive him to mercy, asks only one thing: his heart. 
He blesses the Lord for having made known to him this good news, and freed him 
from doubt, disquietude, and fear. With peace of soul he has also found liberty of 
mind. He is delivered from the yoke of legalism and orthodoxism. He enjoj'^s the 
precious liberty of the children of God. And now, with a calm, confident mind, 
without painful apprehension, and without endangering his inward peace, he may give 
himself to the study of traditional doctrine and of those numerous critical questions 
with which the modern world is preoccupied. Whether he finds or fails to find the 
truth, the salvation of his soul is assured." " L'Evang. du Salut," in " Publications 
di verses sur le fideisme," p. 39). 


No one in these last times has contributed more to the recognition of this happy 
distinction than M. M^n^goz. Vide " Publications diverses sur le fideisme," 1900. 


Cyprian, " De Unitate Eccl.," 6: Habere jam non potest Deum patrem, qui 
Eecletiam non habet matrem. Calvin, " Inst.," ch. iv, i, 1. Cf. Gal. iv. 26, 

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